One of Zimbabwe’s most famous cricket races will come to an end at the end of the current Pakistan tour, with Elton Chigumbura announcing his retirement after the T20I series, which began today. The former Zimbabwe captain, now 34, played 213 ODIs for Zimbabwe, more than anyone other than brothers Flower Andy and Grant, and scored 4,289 runs. In addition, he has played 54 T20I (before the series against Pakistan), scoring 852 runs with a strike rate of 142.71.
Once a mid-paced bowling all-rounder who became a front-line hitter in the later stages of his career, Chigumbura will be remembered as the best Zimbabwean power hitter of his time. It made its international cricket debut in 2004 after the exodus of a cricket revolt from Zimbabwe, at the end of which several rebels left the cricket setup and quickly established a permanent place in the middle order. A 77 of 90 balls against Australia in just his sixth ODI further boosted his credentials: He had played a starring role with the ball in an U-19 World Cup win against them a few months earlier, and a couple of decent innings in the Champions. Trophy in England cemented his place in the team.
Former @ZimCricketv Captain Elton Chigumbura will retire from international cricket at the end of the current @TheRealPCB excursion. He has made 213 ODI and 14 test appearances, with 54 T20I under his belt before the start of his swan song series.#ThanksElty | #VisitZimbabue pic.twitter.com/ah9ukP3mbJ
– Zimbabwe Cricket (@ZimCricketv) November 7, 2020
Zimbabwe and Chigumbura can look back wistfully to a career where his hitting never reached the level his talent could have justified, but he was always capable of hitting big shots, which made him dangerous at the lower levels of the order. He also participated in some of the most famous moments in Zimbabwe. An undefeated 52 in a win over Australia was a highlight, as were hundreds in a row against Pakistan and India in 2015.
He also had his moments in T20 cricket, a format that, on the surface, suited him well. His most famous innings came against India, with an impressive 54 of 26 balls, 42 of which came in six, as his team achieved a memorable two-run victory. A 53 of 21 balls against the United Arab Emirates in the 2014 T20 World Cup was equally destructive, but too many shots did not translate into victories for the team.
In terms of captaincy, Chigumbura first received the reins in 2010 before another spell in 2014. But towards the end of that period, his bat form began to fade dramatically, and the fact that he was no longer an all-rounder put significant pressure on him. Subsequently, his struggles, especially against rhythm, were evident and he last achieved half a century in either format more than four years ago.
His run with the ball isn’t entirely a footnote; he did a five-wicket round against Bangladesh in just his third round, but that was more than 15 years ago. Just when a promising international career began, a stress fracture in his back meant he would no longer be a really fast bowler. As such, he was more of a utility sixth pitcher than a center figure, though perhaps he gave him a boost with the bat.
One sign of his stature is that he was a rare Zimbabwean cricketer who landed T20 franchise contracts, practicing with the Barbados Tridents in the CPL, the Quetta Gladiators in the PSL and the Sylhet Royals in the BPL. The IPL proved elusive, but a career that began in the bitter turmoil of the 2004 rebel saga didn’t turn out so badly.