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.
Former @ZimCricketv captain Elton Chigumbura is set to retire from international cricket at the end of the current @TheRealPCB tour. He has made 213 ODI and 14 Test appearances, with 54 T20Is under his belt before the start of his swansong series#ThankYouElty | #VisitZimbabwe pic.twitter.com/ah9ukP3mbJ— Zimbabwe Cricket (@ZimCricketv) November 7, 2020
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.