HomePoliticsAn arduous road to join cricket’s elite

An arduous road to join cricket’s elite

WINTERTONS is one of Zimbabwe’s most respected law firms.

The firm’s sound repute is hardly surprising: one of its senior partners, Alwyn Pichanick, is the man who worked so untiringly and selflessly to secure Zimbabwe’s standing on the world cricket map.

Zimbabwe was awarded Test status in 1992 — two years after Pichanick’s retirement — but it is generally recognised in cricketing circles that the affable legal specialist’s toil as board president between 1976 and 1990 probably effectively sealed Zimbabwe’s place among ICC’s elite.

To this day Pichanick remains, albeit in the background, a fatherly figure in Zimbabwean cricket.

Pichanick, now 76, was appointed national selector, holding the post between 1962 and 1975 when Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was affiliated to the South African board and played in the Currie Cup competition.

Rhodesian-born players were eligible to play for South Africa in Test matches.

“In 62/63 a very successful South Africa team went to Australia under Trevor Goddard, and four of our players were in the South African side; the two Pithey brothers, David and Tony, and then there was Colin Brand, the greatest fielder there’s ever been, and Joe Partridge,” Pichanick says.

Although he never represented his country, as a schoolboy at Prince Edward Pichanick was a sufficiently capable player. He graduated to become a handy all-rounder for the Old Hararians club and Mashonaland province.

“We had very good teams,” he says. “As a country we did very well in the South African competitions. South Africa later went out of international cricket in 1970 during apartheid. Between 1962 and 1970, apart from those four (players) we also produced other Springboks, one of them being fast bowler ‘Goofy’ (Godfrey) Lawrence. In 1966 the Australians toured South Africa and also played in Rhodesia as part of the tour. Again, Rhodesian Jackie du Preez played for South Africa. And then in 1970, which was Australia’s last tour to South Africa before they were thrown out of international cricket, John Traicos played for the South Africans, who won the series 4-0.”

Pichanick was first elected to the Rhodesia Cricket Union board in 1971. He rose to the presidency in 1976, marking the beginning of a very arduous but fruitful 14-year term.

“It was a long time, but part of the reason was obviously that in 1980 when Independence came, we then left South Africa straight away. In fact, we were the first discipline to go on our own. We then joined the ICC as an associate member.

“From the time we became independent, Test status was our one goal. It was pretty difficult because when we were part of the Currie Cup, money was never an issue because the South African system always had huge sponsorship. Suddenly we were on our own with no money. We announced our intention to gain Test status, which meant we had to do extremely well in the associate member competitions. So to prepare for that we started having tours, and we started as early as 1980.”

The first tourists were Middlesex, the English county champions that season.

“They were captained by Mike Brearley, who was also the England captain. He is now actually the president of the MCC. Then there was also Mike Gatting.

“And then we had other county teams. I spent my whole time in the ICC meetings negotiating with the full member countries to send us teams. We agreed with the leading countries that they would send us young teams without a fixed restriction on age on the basis that it would do us good to play these international teams as we were trying to gain Test status. And also it helped the Test teams to send people who were on the verge of Test cricket. We used to have cake sells and all sorts of things to raise funds. I think we ran all our affairs quite well and started attracting a lot of sponsors.”

The first young team to tour was the Young West Indies in 1981.

“The side had in it Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall, one of the greatest fast bowlers, then Jeffrey Dujon and Faroud Bacchus; these were the main guys. And then we had Pakistan in March 1982, they were called the Pakistan International Airways,” Pichanick says.

The first associate competition the Zimbabweans contested was in England in June 1982. Sri Lanka had been the leading associate up until 1981, and following their entrance into the Test arena, were absent from the second-tier event. Holland, Denmark and Bermuda were then the leading nations in 1982.

“We knew we had to win the competition, and we won every game,” he says. “We beat Bermuda in the final at Leicester.”

The Zimbabwe team was captained by Duncan Fletcher, and included such players as John Traicos, Jack Heron, Dave Houghton, Peter Rawson, Ian Butchart, Kevin Curran, Robin Brown and Mackie Dudhia.

Young West Indies were to tour again in 1983, soon followed by a Young Australia side later that year.

Then there was the maiden World Cup appearance in 1983, qualified on the basis of winning the 1981 associate trophy. “We beat Australia. It was the first time an associate member ever won a game at the World Cup,” says Pichanick with a smile. “We very nearly beat them for the second time, and also very nearly beat India. We had them at 17/5, Kapil Dev got a brilliant hundred. People in England were surprised how good we were. At the first ICC meeting after the tournament we put our first application for Test status. We knew it was going to be a long battle. Not so much from the playing point of view, they wanted to know how we were going to finance it, so we kept being put off.

“But we kept playing; we got two touring teams per year. We sent a team to England to play against counties in 1985.”

The next associate competition, also in England in 1986, was again won by the Zimbabweans. They scooped the next one again in 1990 in Holland to complete a hat-trick of associate trophies. Overall, they were unbeaten in all three tournaments.

“In the 1986 final we beat Holland at Lords. The Dutch side had three established county players at that time,” Pichanick says. “We then carried on each year with our application for Test status… they said ‘come back again next year’.”

The next World Cup was in India and Pakistan in 1987. Pichanick says: “We didn’t win any game, but there were very competitive games. Most of our top players were still playing. Dave Houghton got a brilliant 143 against New Zealand, which they said was the innings of the whole tournament.

With his legal background, Pichanick also sat on the ICC cricket committee that dealt with competition rules.

With each passing year, Zimbabwe’s case strengthened. “Just before the 1990 associate competition in Holland, as basis to whether we were good enough to appeal, we played against more top teams, including a very good Australia team which had Steve Waugh, Shane Warne — basically their younger Test players.

“And just before we went to Holland we played five-day cricket for the first time, against England A, captained by Mark Nicholas. Mike Atherton was also in that team. We performed well against a very good team.

“As for our team, it was basically the same people, but Andy Flower played, and Alistair Campbell came a bit later.”

With Pichanick retiring in 1990, his vice-president for many years, Dave Ellman-Brown, took over and sealed Test status in 1992 before passing the baton to Peter Chingoka.

He says of his reign: “I loved it. We did it for the love of the game. We were not paid, unlike now, for these guys it’s a job.”

For his sterling work he was rewarded with an appointment as inaugural chairman of Zimbabwe’s sports controlling body, the Sports Commission. Pichanick’s influence thus spread to the other sporting disciplines.
“I think we had a very good Sports Commission,” Pichanick says. “I had two, three-year terms. We were very successful in running the All-Africa Games in 1995.”

It’s hard to believe Pichanick has been an attorney for the same firm for a solid 52 years. He joined Wintertons on his 23rd birthday in 1956 as a University of Cape Town graduate.

“I do mostly legal commercial work now,” he says. “Much of the court case work is done by the younger guys.”

The Pichanicks originate from Romania, from where both sets of Alwyn’s grandparents immigrated to southern Africa.

In his last years with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, Pichanick was a Member of Parliament in Harare between 1987 and 1990 courtesy of reserved white seats.

Not far from the veteran lawyer’s house in Harare’s posh suburb of Gun Hill you find the jacaranda-lined Harry Pichanick Drive, a street named after his father, who was a mayor of Salisbury, as Harare was known until 1980.

Alderman Pichanick, who served two terms in 1955 and 1957, also acted as Rhodesia Cricket Union secretary in the 1940s.

“He was very enthusiastic,” says the proud son. “He had a tremendous cricket library. He used to have a standing order with an English company and got every book they printed. I actually donated that library to the union after his death in 1963.”

Most of the books are now shelved in cricket coach Derrick Townshend’s Bulawayo house, an impressive cricket museum in its own right.


Enock Muchinjo

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