HOW unfortunate it has to take reckless narcissism to remind us of Dave Houghton’s love for the game of cricket in a cruel manner.
It was June 27 1998, a chilly winter day, but the determined man still had to continually wi
pe sweat from his brow.
With blistered feet, Houghton trudged into Harare Sports Club as he completed 22 days of a 400km fundraising walk from Bulawayo.
The legendary cricketer had managed the gruelling feat on feet by covering 20km a day — all in a bid to raise money to establish a Zimbabwe Cricket Academy.
The successful march raised $750 000, a whopping figure at the time that translated to US$40 000.
Inspired by Houghton’s commitment, corporate sponsors chipped in with substantial amounts that eventually saw the Academy open its doors to talented young cricketers.
In seven years, the Academy had evolved into a world-class talent-nurturing facility that even the legendary Brian Lara admired.
Today Houghton’s dream project has, in a single and malicious bout of madness, been reduced to ashes after the Academy was burnt down on Tuesday night in a suspected arson attack.
The violence, flaunted as if it’s a virtue in the gutting down of the Academy, is as outrageous as it is archaic barbarism that should have no place on planet earth.
In their lunacy, the perpetrators of the suspected arson attack on the institution must know they have displayed not valour but cowardice that can only be matched by their idiocy.
Whatever the reason for the suspected arson at the Academy, which curiously happened a night after another blaze broke out in Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC)’s boardroom at Harare Sports Club, we don’t believe anyone in their right senses would do it.
The attack is utterly gobsmacking, to say the least!
While a probe is still underway to ascertain the source of the inferno, whoever caused the fire has to be examined for mental illness.
By yesterday, only former Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen had been arrested after his car was allegedly spotted at the Academy the night the fire broke out.
However, for now it would be sub-judice to comment on Vermeulen’s arrest.
There has also been talk of an inside job, but it would be interesting to know why one would be so reckless and stupid. Unless they are insane.
If the obliteration was the result of a deliberate plan by a stable man, then the perpetrator is simply a terrorist.
Whoever it is — and we hope the police will widen their investigations — our prayer now is that the culprit was not in his or her right senses when he or she did it.
Whoever it is, the coincidence that two ZC properties located separately were on fire on consecutive days curiously suggests some sinister motive behind.
It’s not a secret that ZC has been facing serious power struggles over the past two years, and it’s not absurd for anyone to suspect the fight for the helm could have gotten this ugly.
Let our fears remain just that.
But if efforts to chuck out Peter Chingoka from the sport have gone as far as burning down such a key institution, God forbid this terrorism!
The fire — whether accidental or purposely started — is an act of sabotage, whichever way one looks at it.
If this was someone’s way to prove their love for the game, then the sport is better off in the hands of those who don’t give a damn about its future.
Surely if anyone believes destroying the Academy was the best protest to show their displeasure with the way the game is being run, they might as well believe they are not sons or daughters of their prostitute mothers.
The suspected attack has cost not Chingoka but Zimbabwe an invaluable asset in the world-renowned Academy.
What have been incinerated are not Chingoka’s designer suits but playing and training kits and equipment belonging to the national team — in camp at the Academy preparing for a tour of Bangladesh this monthend.
Imagine the computers and the video system that went up in smoke – all in the name of fixing Chingoka?
Let not our fears be true!
What we know is true is that the attack is the work of desperate saboteurs, not anyone with the game at heart!
For the last six years, Zimbabwe cricket has been in turmoil but we never thought the crisis could escalate to such barbaric levels.
We know that since 2000 Zimbabwe cricket authorities have failed to stem the exodus of players to overseas countries for various reasons. It’s unfortunate also that most players have not found it difficult to quit Zimbabwe.
David Ellman-Brown will argue that the union could not afford to convince Neil Johnson and Murray Goodwin, who both left in 2000, to stay for far less than domestic cricket was offering them in South Africa and Australia respectively.
Vince Hogg will tell us they could not guarantee Andy Flower and Henry Olonga their safety after the duo staged a black armband protest to “mourn the death of democracy” in the country on February 10 2003 during Zimbabwe’s World Cup tie against Namibia in Harare.
No one will tell us why former Zimbabwe skipper Alistair Campbell and key all-rounder Guy Whittall suddenly felt they had played their part even though the country could have done with their service for a few more years.
Probably Chingoka will argue his board could not give in to an ultimatum by a player when then captain Heath Streak questioned the composition of the selection panel on April 2 2004.
We have been told the 13 players who turned their backs on national duty 13 days later wanted Macsood Ebrahim removed as convenor of selectors on top of Streak being retained as captain.
ZC managing director Ozias Bvute will probably say the union was acting in the best interests of the game when the board decided that players be paid according to how they performed.
And the players will argue they wanted their remuneration in foreign exchange, considering the runaway inflation that has torn apart Zimbabwe’s economy.
It’s a lot that has happened and all kinds of reasons have been proffered as to why Zimbabwe have muddled in this mess over the last six years.
The result, inevitably, is regrettable. Zimbabwe have had to give up their Test status for the second time in as many years because they had been left too weak to play the longer version of the game.
For now, it’s our hope that Zimbabwe manage to rehabilitate and resume playing Test cricket next year.
While it is crucial that there be continuity in the team, it has always been our hope that experienced and promising players who have left the game would return for national duty.
Therein lies the big challenge. Zimbabwe’s crisis is that most stakeholders in the game seem to have been driven by personal interests at the expense of the sport.
It’s that egoistic behaviour that could have led to the suspected arson attack on ZC properties this week.
We have people who believe they are bigger than cricket itself and strangely behave as if the game owes them a living. It does not!
And we can’t have that nonsense. That’s not love for the game. Period.
We only hope the crisis will not start another racial war or worse still totally annihilate the game.
If anything, those who love the game are not as vindictive and ruthless as the saboteurs who have burnt down the Academy have behaved.
Mr Houghton, do you believe you are in the same class with those who show their love for the game by destroying your dream project? Absolutely no, we have answered for you.
For now, we hope this will be the last sabotage while the police get thorough.