Hello Folks! In this week’s EP of #blabwithsandy, we have Zimbabwe’s cricketer Christopher Mpofu. Known for his fearsome fast bowling, Chris Mpofu has been a pillar of Zimbabwean Cricket Team’s bowling attack since the past decade. Let’s wait no further and dive into the blab I had with Chris Mpofu:
Sandy: Hello Chris! Hope all’s well at your end.
Mpofu: Hey, Sandy! Yes, all is good.
Sandy: Could you let us know about your background?
Mpofu: I was born in 1985 and I live in Bulawayo. I started playing crickter in 2003 but prior to that, I strongly remember hating cricket, hahaha! I was in the 7th grade when India played against Zimbabwe in 1997. I used to love watching cartoons but after that series, my mind got glued towards watching cricket.
Things took a turn after the 1999 World Cup and I suddenly felt like taking part in cricket. I realized that it wasn’t a bad thing to watch on television and I started falling in love with cricket. Henry Olonga’s superb streak as a bowler was one of the incidents which triggered the interest in me. He belongs to my hometown and I just loved the way he was bowling.
Sandy: Interesting! How did your cricket playing career start?
Mpofu: I never played any cricket at the Under-19 level too, hahaha! I joined the cricket academy and fortunately, my bowling became the talk of the town. I felt the need to capitalize on it and was luckily picked for a bowling camp at Australia towards the end of 2004.
Damien Fleming was my bowling coach at Brisbane and under him, I learnt a lot for those two months. Everything happened so quickly to me, that I became engrossed in it without knowing it completely.
I played a few games for the Province and then the Namibian team came to Zimbabwe and I was part of the Zimbabwean side. I was meant to be trained in the Under-19 side but the coach told me that my potential was so good that I could give the National side a try directly. On the 28th of November 2004, I got a call up for the national team.
Sandy: How was the experience of working under the guidance of Damien Fleming? And, I also believe you were being trained by Zimbabwe’s ex-captain Heath Streak too?
Mpofu: Yes, that’s right. Damien Fleming was a great influence on me and I thank him for being the one who helped me out while I was alone in Australia. I didn’t understand much about bowling back then but he had helped me immensely.
Heath Streak and I belong to the same province and prior to meeting him; I only had watched him on TV. He is known for helping out cricketers and what he did for me was no different.
Sandy: The period in which you came into the Zimbabwe team actually was a very strange period for Zimbabwe cricket, wasn’t it? The cricket board turmoil was going on and we got to see many senior players leaving cricket. How did you feel about it and did it hamper your initial cricketing career with the side?
Mpofu: Absolutely! It was 2004 that I made my debut for Zimbabwe and the same year, it was mayhem within the team. I came back from Australia and till August 2005, things were decent.
It was the period when Sri Lanka came to Zimbabwe, the senior guys decided to quit and that is when I joined the team.
It was really hard for me as I was a youngster who was just trying to cement his place. It was definitely hard but all I can say is, I used the opportunities that came my way.
Sandy: I clearly remember Zimbabwean team being one of the teams which used to play really well against India. The faceoff between the two teams used to an interesting watch for all the cricket lovers. But, the turmoil and the break that the Zimbabwean cricket had in between have actually spoilt the progress of the team. What’s your take on it?
Mpofu: Yes, we used to play many matches at the International level and as you rightly said, Zimbabwe used to give India a tough battle on field. However, nothing is in our control and we duly miss those golden days of playing regular cricket.
Not getting as many games as we want is a difficult phase. Zimbabwe definitely needs more games in order to win more games and become a name that it initially was! It is heartening to see many games happening with other teams while Zimbabwe hardly gets to play games. There are a lot of youngsters coming out with potential but it’s hard for them to just wait for a series to happen! I stuck around for a while and did my bit whenever I got those chances.
Sandy: You were part of the national team during its 2011 World Cup journey. How was the feeling of representing your team at a stage such as the prestigious World Cup?
Mpofu: It was an awesome time and I enjoyed playing the World Cup in Asia. I just love Asia, be it India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. I was also part of the T20 tourney at Bangaldesh and its always a pleasure playing at the Asian grounds for me.
Sandy: Any memories of playing against India and with the Indian players?
Mpofu: The Indian team visited Harare Sports Club and played 3 ODIs and a T20 series. I always enjoyed playing with India. I remember having a great interaction with Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh). He is an amazing person and we are very good friends.
Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli are down to earth persons. Kohli had even given me his Nike bat and its my favourite bat. I also had an interaction with Sandeep Lamichane of Nepal and am a good friend of his!
Quick Shot Round:
- Biggest regret: Not playing in the IPL
- Favourite Zimbabwean cricketer: Heath Streak and Andy Flower
- Funniest player in the dressing room: Hamilton Masakadza
- Favourite Indian cricketer: I love watching Cheteshwar Pujara in the Test Matches
- Memorable cricket match: Many! But, beating India in a T20 game was a highlight
- Love: It is all about Care
- Zimbabwe in a word: Amazing
- Zimbabwe Cricket crisis: It was a team of wonderful players and it would have been great to see them all in an agreement to help each other. It was about money and a bit of a fight. Not blaming anyone but the circumstances made it happen
- Harbhajan Singh: Down to earth
- Favourite IPL Team(s): Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders
- Good and bad about cricket: Bad thing is when you are not playing any cricket. It is frustrating when the team is not playing games at regular intervals. Being emotionally away from the game is bad. The good thing for me is, I made good friends and we have fun playing the sport. Cricket has also given me friends in India
Sandy: How do you see Zimbabwean cricket now from the time you started playing for the team?
Mpofu: We guys are playing well even now and there are a lot of things going on behind cricket. There is so much hard work at the highest level.
I am now a senior player and I understand the game much better now. The facilities have improved and the team is getting to see new players coming up. I just want to see more cricket series featuring Zimbabwe which is the need of the hour.
During my debut, hitting 6 runs in an over was considered to be a difficult task but now, things have changed drastically. Cricket has improved and I believe, the functioning of a side should be in tandem too!
Sandy: Any advice that you’d like to give to the newbie cricketers and especially, the upcoming fast bowlers?
Mpofu: Being a fast bowler isn’t easy and one gets to see a lot of injuries in the career. Hard work is very important and the only message I would like to give is to channelize your energies on the right things that shall help you reach the International mark.
Get to the right trainers as getting right fitness is the key. If you want to be blessed you got to do the hard work. Do a lot of running, exercising and diet planning. Do your prayers, pray a lot and trust the God.
Interview by Sandy (Sandeep Rao)
Follow Sandy @blabwithsandy
Follow Chris Mpofu @chrisbobby83
Special Thanks: Rajeev (RM Sports)