‘Gentle, soft-spoken colossus’

ALWYN Pichanick, the late legendary Zimbabwean cricket boss, granted his last press interview to this newspaper in 2010 —chronicling Zimbabwe’s arduous 12-year journey to Test status.

— Staff Writer.

In the wide-ranging interview, Pichanick spoke about how difficult and frustrating at times it was to join the elite of the cricketing world, and also reminiscing about some of the world-class cricket talent to come out of this country.

With Zimbabwean cricket weaning itself off as a “province” of South Africa at Independence in 1980, coupled with a tiny selection pool, the African country continuously had its application for Test status turned down by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

“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,” Pichanick said in 2010, a few years before his immigration to Australia.

“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 (in South Africa), 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.”

Zimbabwe’s stunning win over Australia at the inaugural 1983 World Cup was one of Pichanick’s most memorable moments at the helm of the game. “We beat Australia. It was the first time an associate member ever won a game at the World Cup,” Pichanick said. “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 the playing as 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.”

Pichanick, a lawyer by profession during his lifetime in Zimbabwe, succumbed to cancer in Australia aged 84 on Monday.

He retired as Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) president in 1990, having held the position since 1976.
Among those to pay tribute to Pichanick this week was fellow attorney Muchadeyi Masunda, the former Harare mayor.
Masunda also served as deputy chairperson of the country’s supreme regulatory body, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), under Pichanick’s chairmanship.

“He strode the Side Bar of the legal profession in our country like a gentle and soft-spoken colossus for just under 60 years,” Masunda told the Zimbabwe Independent this week. He served with distinction as an integral part of (Harare law firm) Wintertons for a considerable length of time. I had the privilege of interacting with him from the mid-1970s when I joined the hurly-burly of the legal profession as an articled clerk with Gill, Godlonton & Gerrans.

“He was one of the most sought-after corporate attorneys. The boards of directors of diverse companies on which he served constituted more than ample testimony of how highly regarded he was as an invaluable legal advisor and team player.

“In 1991, he became the first chairman of the inaugural SRC and I had the daunting but necessary task of being not only his deputy chairman but also his ‘de facto hatchet man’ because, amongst the 55 national sporting associations that were affiliated to the SRC, there were some maverick individuals who went into sports administration for reasons which were not remotely connected with the sustainable development and wellbeing of the sporting discipline concerned.

“It was in no small measure due to his astute leadership of the SRC that Zimbabwe was able to successfully host the 1995 All-Africa Games.

“He and other legendary stalwarts of Prince Edward School (PE) like John Bredenkamp and the recently deceased Advocate Chris Andersen contributed financially and materially to their alma mater even though their own children were not pupils at PE. It is as a direct result of their immense contribution and unwavering commitment that PE has remained one of the leading high schools for boys in our country for over a century.

“They also contributed unstintingly to the superb sporting facilities at Old Hararians Sports Club in Milton Park, Harare.

“In 1995, he and other senior practitioners in a variety of professional disciplines played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Commercial Arbitration Centre which is one of the few, but key alternative dispute resolution entities that complement the expeditious dispensation of judicial services in industry and commerce in Zimbabwe and the Sadc region.

“My heartfelt condolences go to his wife, Bryony, and his children, Denis, Jennifer, David, Laura and the internationally acclaimed tenor, Trevor.”

Interestingly, the late sports administrator’s father, Harry Pichanick, is also a former mayor of Zimbabwe’s capital city, known as Salisbury until 1982. Harry Pichanick has a street named after him in Harare’s New Alexandra Park suburb.