HomeSportThe rebel who really mattered

The rebel who really mattered

HIS battling 68 was not enough to save Zimbabwe from a five-wicket loss that gave hosts South Africa an expected 3-0 whitewash series win, but Heath Streak certainly showed us what we were missing.

dana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The return of former skipper Streak after leading a walkout by white players on national duty created so much anxiety that the whole world could hardly wait to see the star all-rounder back on the field.

And on Wednesday all eyes were on the man. Streak did not disappoint.

Having such class and experience in the Zimbabwe side bodes well for the young boys who have been holding fort since the bitter wrangle erupted in April last year.

It was refreshing to see Streak steadying the ship when the chips were down, and we all pray his middle-order partnership with skipper Tatenda Taibu will pluck Zimbabwe from the woods.

But it’s sad now that some people have seen it fit to degrade Streak’s remarkable comeback to racial debates. With Gavin Ewing, another former rebel, doing well with the bat as well, it probably whipped up the unfortunate racial sentiments we heard from some quarters this week.

This tempts us to believe the “third force” Zimbabwe Cricket claimed goaded the white players into a rebellion might have really existed.

There’s no doubt the rebels had some genuine concerns, but surely being level-headed as I believe most of them are, they should have realised an uprising wasn’t the best way. Ultimatums don’t work and real men talk.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe Cricket could have handled the case better. Clearly the union “reared” a rebellion that had been simmering for a decade. It could have been nipped in the bud.

Sadly the action by the rebels degenerated into a racial war that overshadowed whatever concerns the white players might have had concerning selection and a players’ union, among other matters.

But it’s plausible Zimbabwe Cricket initiated manoeuvres to have the rebels back in the fold. It’s even fantastic Streak and Andy Blignaut chose to swallow their pride to accept new contracts. Not to forget Barney Rogers and Gavin Ewing, who were the first to abandon the rebellion in December.

Well done boys!

Though the other rebels are yet to decide whether to make a comeback or not, the return of Streak was the most positive thing to happen to Zimbabwe cricket.

After all he is the man who really mattered. His dismissal as captain sparked the rebellion by the white players who demanded his reinstatement for them to resume national duty.

Ray Price, Stuart Carlisle, Gary Brent, Trevor Gripper and Sean Ervine, to name but a few, Zimbabwe still need you. The standoff is not the way forward.

It’s a war that left no winner on either side. It was a bitter row that threatened to destroy the game of cricket in Zimbabwe. The rebellion gave some Test nations ammunition to call for our expulsion from the elite league.

The standoff left Zimbabwe with no option but to throw youngsters barely out of their teens into the deep end to save the situation, while at the same time lowly Bangladesh seized the opportunity to record maiden wins in Test and one-day international series.

It was a hard time for the media too not to be sucked into the row. Some threatened to file lawsuits against us for exposing them, while others would frown upon us for giving their “enemies” equal space to tell their side of the story. But the good thing is that every good “gleaner” would be assured of a scoop on the chaos every week.

This however did not do any good to the game of cricket. Of course Zimbabwe were not accustomed to victory even with the rebel players around, but a strong and promising team had been built that Zimbabwe were no mere pushovers.

The rebellion just brought Zimbabwe back to square one and left the image of Zimbabwe Cricket scarred and bruised. It was not necessary at all.

The only positive thing to emerge from the rebellion is that no one would have known there is a Tinashe Panyangara who might have been frustrated out of the game had his chance not come earlier. Taibu’s prowess is well documented, but surely Prosper Utseya, Elton Chigumbura and Brendan Taylor were virtual unknowns until they were thrown into the deep end.

Now the onus is on the remaining rebels to do the honourable thing: make a climbdown and sign the new contracts we hear were offered to them by Zimbabwe Cricket. There’s no honour really in allowing pride to decide against what your heart tells you is right.

When the rebels walked out on national duty they made us believe they wanted Streak reinstated as captain, but now that he has said he is comfortable playing under Taibu we expect you to come back.

With all due respect to the fine moments we were treated to by some of the rebels in the past, this is an opportunity for them to prove Zimbabwe has really been missing them.

This waiting game is just not it.

However, Zimbabwe Cricket ought to be careful not to destroy the work Phil Simmons has done over the past year.

In the excitement and euphoria likely to surround the return of the other rebels, there is every temptation to rush all of them into action at the expense of the young players who have been holding fort for the national team. No.

We mean no offence, but honestly some of the rebels -— save for their experience — would struggle to make the team on merit. Names we shall not mention, lest we be accused of scuppering the reconciliation process.

Clearly some of the rebels could not even forge deals abroad during the standoff, but their tooth-and-nail fight to play for Zimbabwe under conditions they deemed conducive could be a sign the players are perhaps committed to national duty.

That said, it won’t be good to just shove say Chigumbura or Taylor onto the fringes to pave way for a rebel who can’t even look at his own career statistics. Selection ought to be handled professionally and whoever makes it into the team should do so on merit.

We don’t mind even if all the rebels make the team — on merit and form -— but unfortunately we don’t believe they are all good enough to displace the youngsters at the mere mention of their names. All we want is the cream.

For the past year, we have been told Zimbabwe have been gaining experience and still learning the ropes. Now with the likes of Streak and Blignaut back in the fold we don’t believe results should be far away from coming.

With the return of Streak and Blignaut last week, the rebellion is as good as over. Probably the hatchet has been buried, but hopefully no one will dig it up again.

We don’t know on what Zimbabwe Cricket and the rebels compromised, but

we hope in the future we won’t have similar uprisings. Let it be genuine reconciliation.

Last but not least, we hope sanity will also prevail in the Mashonaland province, which had initiated a rebellion against Zimbabwe Cricket that however suffered a stillbirth. Talking is what gentlemen do, if cricket is really a gentlemen’s game it is reputed to be.

If we all love the game as we claim to and have its future at heart, let’s not allow personal vendettas to destroy what we have. To our passion for cricket, let’s add respect for each other and be as professional as possible — from administrators to players to the media.

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