HARARE – Tinashe Panyangara travels four hours combined every week from state capital Melbourne to small town Traralgon, down the south-western part of Victoria, to play for one of the top cricket clubs over there.

It’s a distance of roughly 164km – not a hell of a lot of time on the road.

There was however a much longer journey that Panyangara would have loved to make if he had not been winding down after Australia’s long domestic season.

This would have been some 2 000km up north in vast Australia, on the other coast of the Pacific Ocean, in Townsville, where Zimbabwe has been playing in a three-match ODI series against the global cricketing giants.

After the Aussies’ dominant eight-wicket win on Wednesday to clinch the series with a game to spare, Zimbabwe senior batsman Sean Williams lamented what he labelled a skill gap between the two sides.

Panyangara might have last played for Zimbabwe nearly six years ago, but the 36-year-old pace-man would have relished the bowler-friendly conditions in Queensland – with his effective swing bowling – to reduce the gap that Williams spoke about.  

But Panyangara concedes that his international career is over, now looking forward to the next chapter of his life.

“I had my time, and I enjoyed it thoroughly,” Panyangara tells The NewsHawks from Melbourne this week.

“I hope that the guys in the current Zim team make the most of it, and enjoy it as I did.”

Five years ago, Panyangara made a bold career move, walking away from the international arena as one of the premier bowlers of Test-playing Zimbabwe, and settling in Australia. He turns out for Callignee and Traralgon South Cricket Club, who play in the Latrobe Valley & District Cricket League.

In those five years, the club – nicknamed Cats – has won the title twice in that zone, not having been crowned champions before in their Premier League history. In the just-ended season, right-arm pace spearhead Panyangara took five wickets in the grand final as the Cats clinched their second title.

“I have really enjoyed my time at Cats. I’ve made some wonderful friends with everyone, from the club president Peter Duncan to players like Josh Keyhoe and Callum Stewart, to name a few,” says Panyangara.

“I’m enjoying my time in Australia. I couldn’t have picked a better club to play for when I moved over here. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. Whilst my career with Zimbabwe is over, it’s been great to see guys like (Sikandar) Raza and (Blessing) Muzarabani do well. I hope they keep improving.”

During the time he has spent with the Cats, Panyangara has played 69 matches and taken 145 wickets at a bowling average of 13.77.

Back in Zimbabwe, Panyangara was recognised, batting-wise, as a tail-ender who occasionally contributed with some aggressive hitting down the order.

With the Cats, he has had to make his experience count with the bat as well, recording a highest score of 115 over the seasons. He has amassed a total of 1 716 runs at an average of 25.61.

The name Tinashe Panyangara first came to Australian consciousness when his devastating bowling spell at the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2004 resulted in the seven-wicket crushing defeat of the Aussies.  Marondera-born Panyangara took a spellbinding 6-31 for Zimbabwe in that match.

13 years later – still in his pomp and an important player in Zimbabwe’s senior side – Panyangara decided that the rest of his cricket career, and life, would be in Australia.

“I was at a stage where I was happy to try something new,” comments Panyangara.

“I’ve always wanted to play in Australia, and I’ve been enjoying it. I still love the game and for me enjoyment is a very big thing. I enjoy both batting and bowling now. The wickets we play on usually offer assistance to the bowlers but because of the heat, it can get difficult to bowl on.”

In addition to playing, Panyangara also coaches the club’s junior players, roles that keep him busy throughout the season, when he is not watching Aussie rules football or getting in touch with fellow countrymen from Zimbabwe scattered across Australia.

“Our first reaction was why would an international player want to play in the country areas of our state of Victoria,” Callignee and Traralgon South Cricket Club president Peter Duncan chips in.

“After talking with Tinashe, I realised he wanted to play where the pressure was not as great, but to experience the Australian country cricket, and help a club where he could. He lived and worked in our local area while playing cricket with us, moving to Melbourne a few years later. But even when he had moved to Melbourne, he continued to play cricket for our club. Travelling down the highway every week to play with us. He is such a friendly person, everyone at our club loves him, and I think he has grown pretty fond of everyone at our club as well. Tinashe’s contribution to the Callignee and Traralgon South Cricket Club has been amazing over the last five years. He has helped by coaching our juniors, with some amazing results. We have been winning junior grand finals, and have multiple juniors now playing in our premier senior side. He has brought experience, joy, and love for the game of cricket to our club.”

Furthermore – somebody who has played nine Tests, 65 ODIs and 14 T20Is for his country – is bound to bring a cutting edge to such domestic competitions as the Latrobe Valley & District Cricket League.

“Tinashe’s contribution to our club can never be replaced,” remarks Duncan. “To the league he has brought the ability of an international cricketer, and showing the best players in the league what it takes to play at the highest level. His relationship with all the other players in the league is so friendly. I regularly get comments from other clubs how he is such a nice person. He trains players in cricket wherever he goes, or lives. He has such a great experience in cricket, he will no doubt improve the cricket ability and performance of any cricketer who he trains.”

Source: The NewsHawks


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