‘Mixing it with the best’ pays dividends for Mushangwe

Hard work pays off for Zimbabwean-born leg-spinner to seize WBBL opportunity after Darcie Brown injury

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Adelaide – There was one tense final over at Cricket Central earlier this month that perfectly illustrated the giant strides Anesu Mushangwe has made since she arrived in South Australia’s elite cricket program.

The former Zimbabwe leg-spinner, playing her second Weber WBBL season, had been entrusted to bowl the final over of Adelaide Strikers’ November 21 low-scoring thriller against the Sydney Thunder.

The Thunder needed nine runs to win, and on strike was the powerful Sammy-Jo Johnson, who had already hit 25 runs from the first 10 balls she had faced.

Mushangwe had Johnson swinging and missing three times, and just one single and a wicket came from the first five balls as she sealed an important three-run win.

Last season, the 27-year-old played one WBBL game in her debut year, but her tremendous growth and development since joining South Australia and the Strikers has seen her take on a critical role with the ball in WBBL|09.

With the Strikers missing fast bowler Darcie Brown for their first 11 matches, Mushangwe seized her chance – albeit with a very different skill set to her express pace teammate – bowling crucial overs in the Powerplay, Power Surge and at the death.

“That game (against the Thunder) ended up getting intense … Tahlia told me that I was going to bowl the last over and then she called ‘Schutter’ (Megan Schutt) and myself together,” Mushangwe told The Scoop podcast.

“Schutter was like, ‘Don’t calculate (how many runs are needed), just bowl mate’.

“They were just looking to attack so I knew what I was dealing with, what I was working with … and then still maintaining my focus, I tried to switch off from the situation and not to think too much about the pressure of the game.”

Anesu Mushangwe, Tahlia McGrath and Megan Schutt discuss tactics at Cricket Central // Getty

Mushangwe has played all 14 games for the Strikers so far in WBBL|09, taking 16 wickets at 18.12 and with economy rate of 6.44.

When Brown made her return from a hamstring injury late in the season, it was England import Georgia Adams who made way, and Mushangwe now looks set to play a valuable role in Saturday’s final against the Heat.

“I don’t mean to brag, but I feel like we are one of the best teams in Australia (and) by training with the best and mixing up with the best, you take a lot from them,” she said.

“Even just by watching them train, for example, Schutter – when she’s bowling in the nets, she bowls like she is in the game. That’s the attitude.

“So just by watching her do that, sometimes it just happens to me as well.”

Mushangwe’s 12-year journey from a township in Zimbabwe to the Big Bash is an inspiring one, and one that has been driven by her fierce determination and desire for self-improvement.

Feeling like a fish out of water when she first arrived in the Scorpions set-up, she took a single-minded approach to improvement – and it was the same when she landed her first Strikers contract.

“When I got invited to train with the Scorpions, I felt like I wasn’t up to the standard,” Mushangwe said.

“But I didn’t accept it – I was like, ‘Nah, I will fight hard and train hard so that I can fit into the standard’.

“And then after a few months I started doing well because I had something to aim for.

“And then it kept on being like that and then I got invited to train with the Big Bash girls (in 2022), I felt the same way … that I was way behind but I didn’t accept it.

“I had something to aim for again, and I was like, by next year I need to feel like I can fit in with my skills.

“I actually feel that now I can belong with my skills because I’ve worked hard for it and now it’s paying off.”

Anesu Mushangwe celebrates a wicket for the Scorpions against WA in October // Getty

Mushangwe has not been back to Zimbabwe to see her family since April 2022, but has plans to get back to visit at the end of the Women’s National Cricket League season.

She expects her former Zimbabwe teammates will be eagerly tuning into Saturday’s final at Adelaide Oval – but her family, not so much.

“They don’t understand what (playing in the Big Bash) means,” she laughed. “They don’t even get it, the only person who understands cricket is my dad.

“My mum, everyone where I grew up on my mother’s side – they don’t understand cricket at all.

“So whether I have a bad day or good day in cricket, it’s just the same.

“My friends will be tuning in but my family? I can put a bet on that they won’t tune in at all.”

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