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Utseya steps up to the plate

Utseya steps up to the plate

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Don’t let his diminutive stature fool you- Prosper Utseya is honoured but certainly not overwhelmed by the immense challenge that leading a struggling Zimbabwean cricket team poses.

Ironically Utseya is forced to lead a team rocked over the last three or so years with racial tension which led to a mass exodus of the experienced (mostly white) players, including the captain, world class all-rounder, Heath Streak.{{more}}

This is the same tension that many experts believes fast tracked Utseya onto the first team. There can be no doubt that he has stepped up to the plate and is one of the world’s finest bowlers at the moment.

Zimbabwe’s cricket team has never been a world beater neither a push over. The likes of Andy and Grant Flower, Heath Streak, Allister Campbell, and Andy Blignant made sure that they were competitive.

But the racial pressure exploded 2004 when 15 white members of a test squad were axed over a selection dispute. Things worsened and Zimbabwe’s cricket and the future of the game in the troubled southern African country was pushed over the precipice when brilliant young cricket captain Tatenda Taibu walked out.

Taibu, at 22 the world’s youngest Test Cricket captain walked out because he and his family were allegedly physically threatened by a cricket administration official.

“We are putting all that behind us and working together to push Zimbabwe’s cricket up,” said a confident Utseya last week.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT shortly after an intense practice session last week at the beautiful Sion Hill playing field Utseya said that he feels honoured but not overwhelmed by the challenge of leading the struggling Zimbabwean cricket team.

“The best I could lead is through my own performance, so I look to set the example on the field,” said Prosper who was first appointed National Captain at the age of 21, in July 2006.

Utseya who bowls right arm off breaks and is considered a very useful batsman told SEARCHLIGHT that there will always be a difference in culture to overcome between the white ands black players on the team but insist that there is no racial tension.

“We are teammates and we are united, we may come from different cultures back home but cricket unites us,” insist this son of a police man who has become the shinning light of his family.

Utseya said that cricket has always been his love and over the last two years it has been good to see that the players are starting to get better payment so that cricket can be given their full attention.

“We are now making enough to set our futures so it is easier to concentrate on the game,” he said adding that cricket can now serve as a way out of poverty for many young Zimbabweans, none the lease the black youngsters.

Rising from the ranks of township cricket in Harare’s Highfield suburb, he attended Churchill High School (the cradle of many black Zimbabwean players), thanks to Zimbabwe Cricket Union scholarship.

Prosper is now ranked in the top 20 of the ICC ODI bowling rankings. In a Cricinfo article from August 2006, he had the lowest economy rate (3.84) amongst all spinners in the history of ODI cricket. Utseya said that he is hopeful that his team will make the super 8 stage of the World Cup but no matter what he ultimately wishes that the authorities would maintain a settled squad so that they could develop together.

Zimbabwe is grouped with Ireland, Pakistan and the West Indies.

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