Lone voice in the wilderness

SPEAKING out where others choose to remain silent is a quality that often leaves many in our midst with labels.
But those who choose to speak out against what is wrong — when everyone else has lost the will to fight — often end up being vindicated for their good fight and standing up for what is right.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

The recent dramatic turn of political events in our country, where the odds appeared so insurmountable, has shown that.

It is hard to separate political events in this country from sport, particularly football and cricket — our nation’s two main sporting codes. The latter, in more ways than one, mirrors, at least in the past 14 years, how this country has been run at national level.

Sports administrators, just like politicians and other elected public officials, need to be kept on their toes all the time because they are servants with a mandate to deliver to the public.

With Zimbabwean cricket, in particular, major signs of improvement seem to have taken place in recent times in the manner the game is governed. But that is only what appears on the surface. There is need to scratch the surface to see if this is, indeed, the case.

One man who has never let his guard down in quest for stability and normalcy in Zimbabwean cricket is Patrick Gada. From thousands of miles away in England, where he lives and works, he fires non-stop broadsides against what he deems mismanagement and incompetence in the administration of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC).

Where the rest of us have chosen the easy way out, deducing that all is now well in Zimbabwean cricket, Gada has continued to bring pressure to bear on those running the game here — hoping that his beloved sport and country will one day reclaim its past glory. The consistent discharge of censure by Gada over administration, facilities, standards, selection and other matters of concern to Zimbabwean cricket do not come from a mere armchair critic.

They come from a man who has played cricket since 1986 when the game was first introduced to him in Highfield at the age of eight, a game that has become his life ever since, a game that has given him a livelihood way better than that of his beloved Caps United heroes of the 1980s, who included his iconic brother-in-law Joel Shambo.

From Chengu Primary School in Highfield, where Dave Houghton, David Levy and Lazarus Zizhou sowed the seed of cricket in him, the young township boy went on to play at the famous Prince Edward School, then at some of Zimbabwe’s top club sides up to first-class level for a star-studded CFX Academy side.

And then there were playing and coaching opportunities in England, New Zealand, Ireland and the United States, along the way advancing his educational status as well.

He has brushed shoulders and shared experiences with some of the greats of the game in the world. When a man of that kind of experience speaks, instead of burying heads in the sand, it is only wise to stop and listen.

Gada has time and again raised pertinent questions which could easily be dismissed at best as nuisance, but questions that, truthfully speaking, get to the heart of Zimbabwean cricket’s tradition, ethos and more importantly the game’s future.

For example, he has spoken of how the first-class structure is too weak to produce quality international players, even at Under-19 level.

He has spoken about how disturbing that our second-string side, Zimbabwe A, can now be whitewashed 5-0 in a series by minnows United Arab Emirates (who finished seventh in the IC Championship and relegated to play the likes of Kenya, Namibia, Oman, Canada and Nepal).

He has pointed out to the glaring neglect of the grassroots of the game and facilities throughout the country.
Also, he has questioned the wisdom of spending money on an academy based in the UK, for an organisation in such financial woes.

In denouncing the situation obtaining here, Gada has had no sacred cows. He had questioned why his good old friend, Zimbabwe’s head selector Tatenda Taibu, spends a huge chunk of his time in England when he should be on the ground here more often.

Recently, a week before Zimbabwe plunged into battle with South Africa in the historic day-night Test in Port Elizabeth, Gada questioned why Zimbabwe had accepted to go into that contest when the country does not have a single ground with floodlights and when it was so clear the team would struggle in those conditions.

The humiliating innings and 120-run defeat inside two days did not surprise him at all — he saw it coming.

Gada voluntarily came back to Zimbabwe around 2004-05 with a burning passion to serve a game and country he so loves. But he was fired as a player-coach for Manicaland in 2004 by people at ZC who knew nothing about the game, on trumped-up charges of trying to incite players to boycott a game, despite being found not guilty by a disciplinary committee.

Jobless and blacklisted by a clueless administration, he had no choice but to pack his bags and head back overseas, where he is more appreciated than in his own country.

He will return one day, but for now, where men of less courage keep quiet, Gada will continue to speak out from miles away if need be.

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