He may not have realised it, but April 3, 1998, was rather significant for Mpumelelo ‘Pommie’ Mbangwa, the Zimbabwe medium-pacer. He did not take the field against Australia in the ODI that day, but he did gain the honour of becoming the first Zimbabwe cricketer to be interviewed by your correspondent!
Disappointingly, though, Mbangwa has no recollection of that day, except that it was terribly hot. Nine years have changed him — he’s more voluble, sports dreadlocks and a forbidding black suit in his role as a TV commentator, is married and a father. He is happy behind the mike.
The happiness, though, is not complete. “It’s tough, you know,” says Mbangwa, now a Jo'burg resident. “It might seem glamorous, but it's tough! The amount of travelling itself knocks you out.”
The wife, he says, has never ceased to rib him on his “gallivanting around the world”, so he's brought her to Ireland. “And now she's understood how it is,” he smiles.
"She was exhausted after the change of flights and travelling and I had to actually go to work! If I take her to a few more tours, I think she'd start begging me to quit,” he adds. And as for the game, has he completely quit? “Yes, no time. When I'm back home, I just want to spend time with my family.”
Lord of the ring
One man who’s definitely not quitting is Philip MCcormick, the chief groundsman at the Stormont. The last three weeks have been hellish, the vagaries of weather interrupting his work with infuriating regularity. But MCcormick — he insists on these unusual spellings for his name for “the Irish must have their way” — has managed to retain his good temper.
“Can't do much about it, can we,” he says as he shaves the pitch that was used for the match on Tuesday. “It's been hellish, though. But one can't just quit and walk away.”
Apart from the wicket, another thing MCcormick is not giving up on is his friendship with Arjit Jayaprakashan of Delhi, whom he's seeking desperately. “He used to play league cricket here some years ago,” says MCcormick. “I've been trying to find him for years but no clues yet… Could you help?”
I promise to send him any information I find and ask for his email address. “I'm sorry, I don't use email,” McCormick says, blushing. “I'm sort of living in another century.” On Tuesday, he's busily polishing his phone near the boundary rope, watching the game. There's the beautiful Cave Hill in Belfast but fortunately, MCcormick is not a complete troglodyte.