Harare - His contract may not have been renewed by Cricket Namibia this year, but Zimbabwean cricket coach Leonard Nhamburo has nothing but fond memories of his time in the country as national women’s team trainer.
Regarded by some as one of the most underrated cricket coaches in Southern Africa, Nhamburo - who has had stints as assistant and interim coach of the Zimbabwe’s women’s team - got his big break when he was invited to steer the Namibian ladies’ side.
He did not disappoint as he led Namibia to the final of the 2019 ICC Women’s Qualifier Africa held in Zimbabwe.
Nhamburo’s side entered the tournament as rank outsiders but overcame favourites Uganda and Kenya to reach the final, where they heartbreakingly lost to the hosts by 50 runs.
Although Namibia initially missed out on an automatic ticket to the ICC Global Qualifiers, they were handed a lifeline when the world cricket governing body suspended Zimbabwe for government interference in the administration of the local game.
Namibia replaced Zimbabwe and went on to participate in the ICC Global Qualifiers in Scotland as Africa’s representatives.
And though his contract was not renewed despite meeting set targets, Nhamburo is happy that he managed to achieve something the world game.
“I think it was quite an experience, why? Because being a foreign coach, coaching a team that is not your home nation,” Nhamburo told The Southern Times Sportlast week.
“So it was a big challenge but I managed to push through as you’ve seen from the results of the qualifiers. Before I came in, Namibia had not managed to perform well in the qualifiers. When I joined them, they performed beyond expectations and that was the best performance for their women’s team ever.
“They managed to beat Kenya and Uganda for the first time. Prior to the start of the tournament, Uganda was regarded as one of the favourites ... and to beat such a team that was ranked above them, it was quite an achievement. It is something I will cherish.”
The trainer added: “To achieve such a feat as a coach was a proud moment for me and I was happy that I was able to showcase what I have to offer. This was my first time to coach a team outside of Zimbabwe.”
The Namibia side surprised the world with talents such as captain and all-rounder Yasmeen Khan, offspinner Victoria Hamunyela, batter Adri van DeMerwe, seamer Sylvia Shihepo and wicketkeeper Kaylenn Green.
Nhamburo said the qualification of both the men’s and women’s cricket teams for the ICC T20 World Cup Global Qualifiers was a huge marker in the growth of Namibia’s cricket.
“I believe Namibia is heading in the right direction as a cricketing nation. If you look at how they have been investing in their cricket over the years, it’s clear that it is now been paying off, they are winning matches.
"Their men’s team managed to qualify for the T20 World Cup qualifiers. Unfortunately, their U-19!team didn’t do too well, but from what I’ve seen on the ground they are doing the right things when it comes to grassroots development and spreading the game across the country.
"They’ve managed to put most of the players in the men’s team on national contracts and that allows the players to solely focus on their cricket,” Nhamburo said.
Nhamburo has reportedly attracted interest from East African sides Kenya and Uganda, who have been in contact with his representatives Oracle Sport.