By Maynard Manyowa
Shepherd Makunura never raised his voice towads anyone, at anytime, for any reason. He didn’t need to. Authority and respect came naturally to him. He was full of life and jokes but his biggest drive was principle.
I first met him in 2005 after landing a cricket scholarship that took me from Zvishavane to Harare. ￼ I was talented but rather rough around the edges. Despite learning at a former Group A school, I was pretty much a village kid.
But he was kind. He understood the culture shock and went out of his way to train me and many other ‘non-Harare’ kids.
He often structured his sessions. 2/3 of it was cricket. The other 1/3 was principle. He wanted us to grow.
More than good cricketers he wanted us to be good men. He pushed the boundaries, asking for elite level fitness and character.
He was also personally involved, always wanting to know how things were at home and how I felt as a player and a teenager.
Long before everyone was on about mental health, he was clued up on it, big time.
Shepherd was also quite good at what he did. He broke records, winning trophy after trophy as a coach – even changing teams to prove he could turn any crop of players into world class talent.
He did it 3 times in Manicaland and once in Masvingo, a province he loved. He was good. He was a champion coach who knew how to win.
Today I woke up and heard that he had died.
I felt sick.
We’d spoke several times in DMs. I promised we would meet.
When I went to Zim early this year, life got in the way.
Yet I always assumed, as we all do, that we would have that whiskey together and reminisce. We came from way back right?
Everything was going to fall in place someday?
It didn’t. He is dead. I am stunned and also hurt.
It took me a while to pen a tribute.
Didn’t know what to say.
Shep was a nice guy. A decent human being who cared about his players and saw them as more than just cricketers.
He gave life advice. He shared a drink.
He also gave you a kick up the backside if you strayed – and I strayed!
I can’t imagine what his young family are going through.
We only saw glimpses of a man who was indisputably cricket’s best gentleman – and I mean that – and they saw his absolute best.
Shepherd Makunura will be missed as a champion, a coach, a man, a teacher and above all a really nice guy.
Good people really don’t live long. A loss for Zimbabwe Cricket, a loss for ICC – International Cricket Council and a loss for anyone whoever met Shep.
I will miss the DMs, the advice and the threats to pinch my ears if I stray and become any less than a proper family man.
I love you Coach. Always, Forever 🕊️