Independent SportView With Darlington Majonga
BILLY was at school this morning in the outback and the teacher asked all the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came out – fi
reman, policeman, salesman, chef, journalist, footballer, musician, captain of industry and so on.
But Billy was uncharacteristically quiet and so the teacher asked him about his father.
“My father is an exotic dancer in a gay club and takes off all his clothes in front of other men,” Billy told a stunned classroom.
Before he could continue, the teacher quickly set the other children some work and took little Billy aside to ask him if that was really true.
“No,” said Billy. “He plays cricket for Zimbabwe but I was just too embarrassed to say.”
We hate to believe little Billy, but that Zimbabwe has become the butt of many jokes of international cricket is in no doubt.
Losing seven Test matches – all but two by an innings – and scraping a single draw in eight encounters since the beginning of the year is no mean feat for a country battling to be taken seriously on the international scene.
Zimbabwe’s cricketers have just taken a breather after a hectic two-month period during which they played four Tests and also hosted a triangular one-day international series involving India and New Zealand.
The Test defeat Zimbabwe suffered inside two days at the hands of New Zealand was as humiliating as it was a bitter lesson for the local boys. The pathetic performance certainly left Zimbabwe at the mercy of critics who have been calling for the stripping of the country’s Test status.
Zimbabwe’s only solace was that thereafter they managed to improve with each outing although they still went down to innings defeats until their last Test against India that they lost by 10 wickets.
While the past two months did much to disappoint and embarrass local supporters, it surely must have been a harrowing experience for the cricketers themselves and their administrators. Our only hope is that we will never relive that distressing period again.
On Tuesday in Sydney, Australia, the International Cricket Council (ICC) will be rewarding the outstanding cricketers for the past season.
Though it was nothing unexpected, we found it embarrassing when none of Zimbabwe’s cricketers was considered for the four individual awards up for grabs at the annual ICC Awards.
In short, it was a serious indictment of the state of the game in Zimbabwe that none of our national team players were even considered for any of the awards. It also just says it all when we have no single player considered for the ICC World XI currently facing Australia.
Last month the ICC named 34 nominees for the emerging player of the year, one-day international player of the year, Test player of the year and the player of the year categories.
All the expected players were there, but the fact that Bangladesh – the lowest-ranked of the 10 Test countries – even had two players, Aftab Ahmed and Manjarul Islam Rana, nominated in the emerging player of the year category just makes the pill too bitter for Zimbabwe to swallow.
However, the snub by the ICC – though not unforeseen – should spur Zimbabwe’s young players to pick themselves up from the deck and start fighting. All those concerned with the future of the game in Zimbabwe should now redirect their energies they have been expending on the blame game towards rebuilding the national team.
It would be very unhelpful now to wail over Zimbabwe’s loss of world-class players such as Andy Flower, Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson when it’s apparent life has to move on without them.
In the same breath, it would be unhelpful for Zimbabwe to be content with the world feeling sorry for us simply because our players are still young and need time to gain experience.
It’s unfortunate the integration project to spread cricket – previously a preserve of the white minority – to blacks was greeted with suspicion, but it’s the right track Zimbabwe Cricket should remain on.
Because of Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis, we have lost a number of whites and that certainly has a negative impact on the game. Internal politics have also not spared the game.
But while we appreciate the fruits of Zimbabwe Cricket’s deliberate efforts to spread the game, it would be disappointing to stretch the patience of the cricket-loving fraternity by failing to nurture that potential into world-class glory.
Zimbabwe might have renewed hope in new coach Kevin Curran, but it doesn’t need a rocket scientist to tell that even a coach from the moon won’t just make things automatically happen for the country.
The lack of competitiveness, no matter how much we spread the game to all corners of the country, will remain the country’s Achilles heel. This is the biggest lesson Zimbabwe Cricket must have learnt over the past two months.
It must be said the decision to field a Zimbabwe side in a South African provincial tournament was plausible and the only sensible thing to do. We hope facing the likes of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Province, Boland, Western Province and Border will hone our local boys for the rigours of Test cricket.
On the domestic front, Zimbabwe Cricket ought to make it their core business that cricket at provincial and national levels is as competitive as would only make us a better Test nation. Numbers alone without quality won’t do it.
While they may have retired from the international game, we believe the likes of Dave Houghton, Alistair Campbell, Eddo Brandes, Adam Huckle and many others still have a lot to offer to help the many young talented players learn the ropes.
Let’s hope this time round we won’t have politics dominating the sport at the expense of the players. It’s our belief that the strike by Mashonaland clubs last week could have been unnecessary had they sought better ways to have their grievances addressed.
We have always believed cricket is a gentlemen’s game, so why shouldn’t we see the sport portrayed as such in Zimbabwe? Honestly, we are fed up with off-field politics.
If Zimbabwe Cricket and the players themselves have any conscience, they should know that Zimbabweans and world cricket don’t deserve this. We hope for the best and that the Billy joke remains just that – a joke!