TOCHUKWU Emwerem kind of let us down a bit.
By Enock Muchinjo
A Nigerian name on a Zimbabwe Test team-list would have been cause of great fascination among world cricket’s press corps — definitely a story worth telling.
While he is still only 27, Emwerem has all but faded away — cricket-wise that is — unable to add anything beyond his three Youth ODIs for Zimbabwe Under-19s and a couple of Matabeleland Tuskers B appearances.
Born and bred in Bulawayo into a proud Nigerian immigrant family, Toch — as his mates call him — initially showed his prodigious talents at Falcon College, where coaches and onlookers alike spoke of him as a certain future Zimbabwe international.
But while it is really not something out of the ordinary that a Zimbabwean cricketer can be a locally-born son of Nigerians — raised in a city with a proud cricketing heritage and schooled at the eminent Falcon College — you would think that this would be as far as any cricketing relations between these two countries can get.
Now, a Nigeria Under-19 national team coming to play Zimbabwe — as is currently happening — would have been a most unthinkable thing in the history of Zimbabwean cricket even as the West Africans were flying here for the one-week tour.
You just could not make it up.
Zimbabwe are using the matches as part of preparations for next year’s Under-19 World Cup, to which they automatically qualify by virtue of being a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). As for the Nigerians, they are en route to Namibia for a qualification competition in Africa Division One later this month, in pursuit of an elusive ticket to that Under-19 World Cup.
Few expect them to qualify.
There has not been any meaningful cricket to talk about in Nigeria since the game was first introduced there many decades ago.
But the ICC says it is using hugely populated countries like Nigeria as one of the target zones in the world to grow the game.
These are all plausible efforts and, for Zimbabwe, there is of course the moral obligation to offer a helping hand to an African brother who needs it.
It is a nice gesture by ZC, to reach out, and Zimbabwe should feel a sense of responsibility towards the emerging African cricketing nations.
We have been shown the way too, sailing in waves of a huge sea of goodwill from different people and different places.
But spare a thought for the long-suffering Zimbabwean cricket supporters. Do not lynch them for having a bad feeling about now having to play cricket against teams from Nigeria.
They have been here before — seeing the signs, the steady decline and all of a sudden the Waterloo.
It happens in stages: overtaken by Bangladesh, overtaken by Afghanistan and denied a place in the World Cup by United Arab Emirates.
And then while you are still wondering if that is what is has come to — reduced to playing against Nigeria—you wake up to more distressing news that strife-torn Afghanistan are calling off a tour because their hosts, Zimbabwe, are too broke to afford sharing the broadcasting costs.
As if to rub it in, this just has to happen in the World Cup year, where Zimbabwe will be conspicuously absent for the first time in 36 years.