PETER Lovemore, the late legendary Zimbabwean horseracing broadcaster, used to occupy this very space in this newspaper nearly 20 years ago.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
Not Necessarily Racing was his aptly named column, for Lovemore had the freedom to wax lyrical about any topic he wished to tackle — doing it with remarkable wit, authority and dignity. On this occasion, in September 1999, the usually cheerful and hilarious Peter was not particularly pleased about how the term “British cricket” had sneaked its way into the headline of his previous instalment.
“British cricket? No such thing,” thundered Lovemore in his column.
“Never has been and never will be. Cricket was invented by Englishmen and cricket in those isles is only ever referred to as English cricket, regardless of the origin or creed or tribe of those who play the game there. I mean, do you ever hear anybody referring to Irish or Welsh cricket? Of course not, and most people were quite unaware of this new phenomenon, Scottish cricket, until the most recent World Cup.”
That most recent World Cup was the 1999 edition in England, where Scotland featured in the showcase for the first time in their history. Zimbabwe, in comparison, had debuted at the World Cup 17 years earlier that the Scots, with the African team having been to every tournament since 1983.
Equipped with that piece of history, Lovemore really had a field day that week, ridiculing the very unthinkable idea of Scotland as a serious cricketing nation. And as a Zimbabwean cricket fan, Lovemore had, at that time, a right to feel every sense of superiority.
While the Scottish were heavily defeated by all their opponents at England 1999, prompting Lovemore to declare rather cheekily how “it will be some centuries before cricket and Scotland are again mentioned in the same breath”, Zimbabwe hit an all-time high at that World Cup, beating both India and South Africa to proceed to the Super Six stage at the expense of hosts England and defending champions Sri Lanka.
But time has a way of changing things, and for Zimbabwean cricket, it has been in the most tragic and dramatic way. Scotland played again at the World Cup in 2007 and 2015.
As for Zimbabwe, they have been forced to come full circle — having to go through a qualification process for the first time since the 1992 World Cup. And as if that were not depressing enough, Scotland, given no chance in centuries by Lovemore 19 years ago, were on the verge of a famous win over Zimbabwe in the final pool matches of the World Cup Qualifiers on Monday.
Seeing Zimbabwe plunge over the years to become some kind of cricketing peer for the likes of Scotland — and also the emergence of their “fellow Britons” Ireland as a force to reckon with, a dark horse of the World Cup Qualifiers — Lovemore would not be having a great feeling right now.