DOMBOSHAVA-The blistering sun beats mercilessly on patched lands in Domboshava, 20km north of Harare as Mitchell Chivare 20 hastily removes part of her cricket kit from the washing line, which has already dried up.
Chivare hurriedly packs her kit, as she readies for the bat and ball game at a nearby school.
She is looking forward to a positive comeback match after spending over a year away from the sport.
A promising medium pace bowler, who at one point was earmarked for the senior women’s team, Chivare fell pregnant and gave birth to her first child Kevin 18 months ago.
It would not take long before she gave birth to her second child-a girl-two months ago.
This has been a major setback to her promising cricket career, as she has to stay home and take care of the children.
Chivare is among cricket protégés in Domboshava who have fallen victim to early marriages.
“I got into a marriage earlier than expected. I then gave birth to two children, so I do not have anyone to leave them with when playing cricket,” Chivare said as she comfortably sat besides her grandmother.
Many of her friends have also been lured into early marriages, she said.
“I have many of my friends who were very good at cricket but they have since stopped due to early marriages. Their husbands do not want them to play sports,” Chivare added.
Domboshava is one of the rural communities in Zimbabwe plagued by child marriages.
According to UNICEF, one woman out of three in Zimbabwe aged 20 to 49 was married before the age of 18. About 5% of the girls were married before the age of 15.
As Chivare prepares to leave home, her grandmother whispers: “Please go and do well, maybe you will get us out of this poverty.”
She trudges on a dusty pathway to join other girls at Harmonics Cricket Academy at Munyawiri Secondary School, just two kilometres away.
In the middle of the patched cricket field, often used for other sports at the school, is a concrete crease where bowlers are going through their drills.
Although she has been away from the sport for over a year, Chivare remains the academy’s top bowler.
Her pace and ability to get the elusive swing has been Chivare’s biggest asset since she started playing cricket at 12 years.
Academy founder and coach, Harmony Kurisa, 39 bellows instructions to the girls preparing for a match against visiting Mufakose. Younger ones are engrossed in catching and batting drills.
He is hopeful that rural cricket will help many girls escape early marriages.
“We have lost many girls to early marriages at this academy, some who we had groomed for the national team. Most of them are just 20 and their husbands forbid them from playing. We hope they will come back one day,” Kurisa said.
“We have talent in rural Zimbabwe, so we should capture them before they get into early marriages. We want to keep them busy.”
Team manager in charge of Girls Cricket, Hazvinei Kurisa,42 said:” We are losing a lot of talent.”
To stop the practice, she added: “We always conduct counselling sessions. The training sessions also keep them occupied even during holidays.”
As soon as the match begins, visiting Mufakose claims two early wickets meaning Chivare has to prepare to bat at number four.
She hits one run off the first delivery but is dismissed after being caught at mid-on. Although her team is in all sorts before the drinks break, they can rely on Chivare’s bowling when they get into the field.
Founded in 2008, Harmonics has produced top national team talent like Mitchell Mavunga who was recently drafted into the national women’s team to play in World Cup Qualifiers in October.
Mavunga is also in camp with the Women’s Under 19 team currently preparing for the T20 World Cup.
Although the academy has faced headwinds over the years, including lack of financial support, Kurisa remains hopeful that it will help groom future national team players.
Although rural cricket has been on the growth path, the pace has been slow due to lack of resources while many families cannot afford cricket equipment for their children.
With early marriages a threat to the sport due to poverty and redundancy, more talent is expected to come out of this rural community.
As for 20-year-old Chivare, the cricket dream lives on.
“I believe I will come back stronger. I still have the passion and the talent,” she gushes.