One of Zimbabwe cricket’s most storied careers will draw to a close at the end of the current tour of Pakistan, with Elton Chigumbura announcing his retirement following the T20I series, which started today. The former Zimbabwe captain, now 34, played 213 ODIs for Zimbabwe, more than anyone apart from the Flower brothers Andy and Grant, and scored 4289 runs. In addition, he has played 54 T20Is (before the series against Pakistan), scoring 852 runs at a strike rate of 142.71.
Once a medium-pace-bowling allrounder who became a frontline batsman in the latter stages of his career, Chigumbura will be remembered as Zimbabwe’s best power-hitter of his time. He made his debut in international cricket in 2004 after the exodus of an upheaval in Zimbabwe cricket, at the end of which a number of rebels left the cricket set-up, and quickly established for himself a permanent place in the middle order. A 90-ball 77 against Australia in just his sixth ODI further boosted his credentials – he had played a starring role with the ball in an Under-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.
Zimbabwe, and Chigumbura, may look back wistfully at a career where his batting never quite moved up to the level his talent may have warranted, but he was always capable of big-hitting, which made him dangerous lower down the order. He also played his part in some of Zimbabwe’s most famous moments. An unbeaten 52 in a win over Australia was a highlight, as were back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan and India in 2015.
He had his moments in T20 cricket, too, a format that, on the surface, suited him to the tee. His most famous innings came against India, a stunning 26-ball 54, 42 of which came in sixes, as his side eked out a memorable two-run win. A 21-ball 53 against the UAE at the 2014 World T20 was similarly destructive, but far too many knocks failed to translate into wins for the side.
In terms of the captaincy, Chigumbura was first given the reins in 2010 before another spell in 2014. But towards the end of that stint, his form with the bat began to fade sharply, and the fact that he was no longer an allrounder put significant pressure on him. Subsequently, his struggles, especially against pace, were evident and he last managed a half-century in either format over four years ago.
His career with the ball isn’t completely a footnote; he took a five-wicket haul against Bangladesh in just his third Test, but that was over 15 years ago. Just as he began a promising international career, a stress fracture in his back meant he would no longer be a genuinely quick bowler. As such, he was more of a utility sixth bowler than a central figure, though it did perhaps spur him on with the bat.
A sign of his stature is that he was a rare Zimbabwean cricketer to get franchise T20 contracts, plying his trade with the Barbados Tridents in the Champions League, 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 rebels’ saga didn’t shape out too badly.
WHO IS Elton Chigumbura
Elton Chigumbura (born 14 March 1986) is a Zimbabwean cricketer, who plays all formats of the game. He was Zimbabwe‘s One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) captain appointed in August 2014, before stepping down in January 2016.
He made his debut at the age of 18, amidst the rebel crisis and has played 14 Test matches. Chigumbura is the most capped player in the current ODI squad with more than 200 caps.
In May 2015 Chigumbura made his maiden ODI century, against Pakistan in Lahore, in his 174th ODI match. With more than 4000 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs, he is widely regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest all-rounders. In June 2016, during India’s tour to Zimbabwe, he played in his 200th ODI match, with 197 of these for Zimbabwe and three for Africa XI.
In November 2020, Chigumbura retired from international cricket following the conclusion of the T20I series against Pakistan.
Chigumbura made his first-class debut for Mashonaland aged just fifteen and went on to represent Zimbabwe in two consecutive Under-19 World Cups. He took four wickets in their upset win over Australia in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
In March 2010, Chigumbura signed for Northamptonshire County Cricket Club as an overseas player, giving him the chance to return to England after having a short spell at Eppleton Cricket Club.
He was the leading run-scorer for Mashonaland Eagles in the 2017–18 Pro50 Championship tournament, with 243 runs in seven matches.
He made his international debut sooner than expected due to the absence of the ‘rebel’ players, playing his first Test aged just 18 during a tour of Sri Lanka. It was a demoralising tour for Zimbabwe and Chigumbura looked out of his depth. He missed the majority of 2005 due to a stress fracture in his back which he picked up during a series against South Africa in March.
Prior to Zimbabwe being barred from Test cricket in 2005, he went on to play 6 Tests for his country. He struggled with the bat, making five ducks in his twelve innings. He made one half century, an innings of 71 against Bangladesh in Chittagong. It turned out to be a good game for Chigumbura as he followed up his batting performance with a career best bowling return of 5/54
He has had more success in ODI cricket, playing some memorable innings. In May 2004 he scored 77 against Australia at Harare but arguably his greatest performance came later in the year against Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy. In a man of the match winning effort he made 57 with the bat and took 3/37 with the ball.
The next year in a game against Bangladesh in Harare he put on 165 runs for 6th wicket with Stuart Matsikenyeri as they successfully chased down 246 to win with 5 balls in hand. Chigumbura contributed 70 off 68 deliveries. At the same ground against the same opponent in February 2007 he equalled his highest ODI score of 77 in an innings that included 7 sixes. At the conclusion of the game only 3 other Zimbabwean cricketers had hit more sixes than Chigumbura in their one-day careers.
Chigumbura was part of the Zimbabwean squad for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. He registered new career-best ODI bowling figures of 3/25 and scored 38 runs from 34 balls in Zimbabwe’s shock win against the West Indies on 30 November 2007.
In May 2010, Chigumbura replaced Prosper Utseya as Zimbabwe’s captain. He led Zimbabwe to the 2011 World Cup, but resigned within months of the tournament in which Zimbabwe defeated only Canada and Kenya and failed to qualify for the quarter-finals.
He was replaced in the captaincy by Brendan Taylor.
In August 2014, Chigumbura was named Zimbabwean captain for second time. He was appointed ODI and T20 captain as Brendan Taylor retained the leadership in the Tests as part of Zimbabwe Cricket‘s decision to split the captaincy across formats.
He scored 90 runs off 122 balls with 10 fours and two sixes in defeat against South Africe at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. Out of 165 runs Chigumbura scored 54.5 percentage of team runs.
Chigumbura’s unbeaten 52 engineered the chase that led Zimbabwe to their first victory over Australia in 31 years.
In January 2016 Chigumbura stepped down as captain of Zimbabwe following the conclusion of the Twenty20 International series against Bangladesh.
He was retained in the team for Zimbabwe’s victorious return to Test cricket in a one-off match against Bangladesh in August 2011, taking three wickets, before a knee injury ruled him out of the following Test against Pakistan. Chigumbura had earlier led Zimbabwe in 24 limited-overs games from May 2010 to March 2011 in which his form was fell away.
In March 2014, Chigumbura scored a quickfire 53 from No. 6 to complete the chase in 13.4 overs against UAE at 2014 ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. He started with a six and a four in his first two balls, and maintained the same intensity throughout his innings. His last shot was a straight six not only took Zimbabwe over the line it also brought him his half-century off 21 balls.
He is an aggressive batsman, who generally bats in the middle order for his team. He is strong on the lofted drive and he consistently clears the fence in ODI with his big hitting in the final overs. He is also a useful seam bowler, regarded as being his country’s fastest in the current squad, clocking at more than 140 km/h when at his peak. In the field he is an athletic outfielder, once taking 4 catches in an ODI against the West Indies at Queen’s Park Oval.