- The man that has been described as Zimbabwe's "great new hope" talks about his time training in the IPL with Lucknow and bowling to Quinton de Kock in the nets.
- The 25-year-old speedster, who spent time playing in county cricket for Northamptonshire, assesses whether Test cricket has a future with T20 on the rise.
- He also reveals what it was like working with Makhaya Ntini as Zimbabwe’s bowling coach and how highly he rates Kagiso Rabada who he’s been compared to.
Sport24 asked: How would you sum up your IPL experience so far?
Blessing Muzarabani: Being part of the IPL with the Lucknow Super Giants has been wonderful. I joined on a training basis as part of my desire to continuously improve as a cricketer and be ready to step on to the big stage at the IPL should an opportunity arise. I have been enjoying every second because I’m mixing with some of the best cricketers in the world and the talent has been top-class. There is a big squad of players in the IPL so it’s no every time that I get to bowl. As such, every time you get to bowl you have to ensure you make the most of it. I’m not really worried about playing (in the tournament) and for now I just want to practice and be the best that I can be. Whether or not I played (during IPL 2022) my goal was just to go in there, learn as much as possible and improve as a player. I have enjoyed having South African Quinton de Kock as a teammate and it’s always good to bowl to him because you learn a lot. I have only bowled once to him in the nets so far and haven’t been able to get him out. He’s a good guy and a great player who has already achieved a lot in cricket. I’m looking forward to bowl to him again in net practice and hopefully I can take his wicket.
Sport24 asked: Which fast bowlers have you drawn inspiration from?
Blessing Muzarabani: In terms of mentors, former Zimbabwe head coach Heath Streak taught me a lot about game awareness and bowling variations. Makhaya Ntini, who was Zimbabwe’s bowling coach, really helped me with my action and he ran some of the toughest fitness sessions during his time with the national team. He always passed around with good energy and tried to infuse the guys with a positive mindset. In the practices, he liked to push the guys to really work hard and try to do the best things they could. I also looked up to Morne Morkel when he was still playing internationally. He too is tall and I always admired his line and length. When I earned my Test debut for Zimbabwe in 2017, I played against South Africa. Unfortunately for us the one-off Test ended within two days but hopefully Zimbabwe and South Africa can have more Test matches against each other in the near future. I really learned a lot because I played against legends, with Morkel taking 5/21. It’s really good to have height as a fast bowler because you get bounce and if you’re action is solid you can generate even more pace. Kagiso Rabada is also someone who inspires me because at the age of 26, he has already done a lot in the game. In terms of my delivery stride and movement across the crease I believe that I have been compared to Rabada. Kagiso is a legend and he has done a lot in cricket so when I hear people saying that, it’s great. Of course Kagiso is one of the best bowlers in the world so I always learn from him. I’m just trying to be the best version of myself. There aren’t too many six foot nine bowlers in cricket so my style is different to many bowlers but Marco Jansen, who is the same height, is going to be a really good player. I was really shocked that he can bat as well and field in the slips. I’m sure he is going to do great things in international cricket.
Sport24 asked: What will it mean to qualify for the 2023 World Cup?
Blessing Muzarabani: Missing out on the 2019 World Cup was tough for us but we also have to look forward. The 2023 World Cup qualifiers will take place in Zimbabwe from June. I’m really happy we get to play at home and hopefully fans will be allowed into the grounds which would give us a lot of energy from their support. I think there are a lot of positives coming out of Zimbabwe right now. Hopefully that will continue and then we aren’t going to be talking about board situations and stuff. We just want to play cricket... I was only three years old when Zimbabwe famously beat South Africa at the 1999 World Cup in the UK. Back then Lance Klusener was player of tournament. He is returning to Zimbabwe as our batting coach and it’s always a blessing having him in the team. He is quieter than Makhaya who, in contrast, was high energy all the time. In terms of Lance, I’m looking forward to working with him. I’ve been trying to work on my batting but as soon as the pace goes up, it’s really tough for me. I just have to try and deal with the speed and hopefully I’ll be all right… In terms of Zimbabwe’s cricket rivalry with South Africa, what I will say is the Proteas are performing really well right now. But I still believe we’re good enough to beat South Africa if we qualify for the World Cup and end up playing against them. It’s just that we have to bring our best game on the day.
Sport24 asked: What do you make of Temba Bavuma’s ascension?
Blessing Muzarabani: It’s really nice to see Temba doing well, especially as captain. When I was playing county cricket for Northamptonshire, he once came to Northampton and played a few county matches. I have talked to him and I’m really happy to see him performing, leading as captain and winning games. I’m sure he is still going to do a lot of good things for South Africa. There is a bit of a height difference between us and, when bowling to him, it’s really tough because he can literally pull me every ball if I don’t get it right. So when I bowl to a short batsman like Temba, I have to pitch it up and make sure that I don’t bowl too full otherwise he will look to drive me. It’s always difficult to bowl to him because if you give him room, he’s going to cut and if you bowl short, he’s going to pull. Temba is tough to bowl to and I would also say Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Faf du Plessis would be my most prized wickets. It’s really good to bowl to them because they have done so well at international level. If you bowl to them, of course it’s going to be tough because they’re some of the best but at the same time it’s a good challenge for me as well as it tests my skills at the highest level.
Sport24 asked: Could T20 cricket be the death of the red ball format?
Blessing Muzarabani: Personally, I love playing Test cricket and I believe Test and T20 cricket can live together.T20 is good but a lot of guys love Test cricket and I don’t think red ball cricket will ever die. Playing the game’s longest format is a good challenge for players and I think Test cricket will live forever. T20 cricket is nice as well because it’s a fast game and I enjoy playing in both of the formats.
Sport24 asked: What’s your passion outside of the gentleman’s game?
Blessing Muzarabani: I love music and before practice I listen to different tracks. I’m not a great singer like Henry Olonga (who released Our Zimbabwe in 2001) but I like to listen to positive music that uplifts me before a practice or a match. I mostly listen to Hip Hop and R&B and songs that say something with their lyrics. I am a big fan of Kanye West’s music. People have tried to draw comparisons between his latest album (Donda 2) and Drake’s (Certified Lover Boy) which was released last year but I don’t care about comparisons and who is doing better. I just enjoy the music.