THE notion that a win is a bonus has long been hardwired into the psyche of Zimbabwean cricket fans.
By Enock Muchinjo
What has been unacceptable and totally frustrating with this team for the better part of 12 years is the meek submission to opposition and absolute lack of contempt for anything less than the minimum standards the fans ask for.
In the wake of Zimbabwe’s hearty performances in Sri Lanka, it is heartening to see the nation rising in unison to salute the team’s outstanding effort, a massive endorsement from the fans and clear indication of what is expected of the team all the time.
The last time Zimbabwe had won an ODI series away to a major team was 16 years ago in New Zealand. It is perhaps the African side’s most successful overseas tour to date. Zimbabwe also ground out a remarkable draw in the only Test match on tour.
Pity, this time around, after the ODI heroics in Sri Lanka, they have gone on to lose the Test match.
The team is absolutely gutted to lose the Test match in that manner and it is extremely hard to take for everyone after the mentality the side showed throughout the tour.
But here is the pleasing factor: given two options, first, the safer route of playing for a draw, and two, taking the game to the wire and leaving it delicately poised for any one of the two sides to win it on the final day — as was the case in this particular Test — I would have chosen the latter.
Zimbabwe dared to dream going into that fifth day on Tuesday and for that they have earned the respect of many, and restored the faith of a lot more whose trust had been betrayed for many years.
Never had a Zimbabwean team of the post-rebels era reduced a major side to second best throughout a full series, and yes, “throughout” here includes the Test match in which Graeme Cremer and his men enjoyed more success in the majority of the sessions.
It is interesting to examine the factors behind the turnaround of the team.
What one cannot miss is the diverse composition of the team, which has brought in a new vibe in terms of attitude, spirit and aspirations.
With the tourists on top of the Test match on day three and on the verge of a famous result, Zimbabwean professional golfer Ryan Cairns had a wave of patriotism sweeping across his network of followers with a Facebook post that praised the team’s wide assortment of backgrounds.
The picture accompanying Cairns’ post was a beautiful image of joy — as Zimbabwe’s players celebrated yet another Sri Lanka wicket — capturing the unique multiculturalism and diversity that give our nation one of its proudest identity.
Cairns might not have realised the full extent of this diversity.
The 11 players who played in that Test match have deep roots in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Marondera, Mhangura.
To add some international flavour, there was the Pakistani-born Sikandar Raza, who came of age on this tour and repaid his adopted country’s faith in him in the biggest way so far in his international career.
Raza might be the only one of the 11 to be born elsewhere, but he shares a common passion with the rest of the team based on each member’s unique background, experiences and cricket journey.
At the top of the order for Zimbabwe were the opening batsmen Hamilton Masakadza and Regis Chakabva, hailing from the Highfield-Glen Norah area that has produced the bulk of Zimbabwe’s best cricket talent.
Test debutant Tarisai Musakanda, a sports-crazy 22-year-old from Marondera who first learnt cricket in his small hometown through the national association’s development initiatives, and who has now found his niche with cricket after representing his country at Under-20 rugby level.
Craig Ervine, a Mhangura farm boy who was heavily relieved to escape amputation as a young boy after a freak accident left his arm badly injured.
Donald Tiripano, from Mutare’s high-density suburb of Dangamvura: a fast bowler who is enjoying the opportunity not afforded to his mentor George Tandi, who traces his family roots in the Rusape area of Manicaland, but one of the Glen Norah prodigies of the early 1990s, in his prime a fearsome Prince Edward schoolboy and Zimbabwe Under-25 fast bowler who lost himself somewhere along the way.
Then there is the Bulawayo due of Sean Williams and Chris Mpofu, great buddies and favourite sons of the city brought together by a common interest in cricket. Williams is the son of a women’s field hockey Olympics gold medallist — from a privileged white family background — and Mpofu had to experience the numerous challenges of township upbringing in Magwegwe.
After a very difficult and often divided 12 years, Zimbabwe’s team is learning to live with differences, and finding strengths in them.