THEY screamed squeakily like little children and simultaneously leapt into the air with boundless joy.
Just a few hours earlier, the sounds of 11 Emiratis out on the field had been nothing really, buried underneath the cheering and singing of 18 000 Zimbabweans in the cozy little stadium.
Now, their celebrations sounded like deafening noise amid deathly and stunned silence among the record Harare Sports Club crowd.
Minnows United Arab Emirates (UAE) had just defeated the tournament hosts in a rain-affected qualifier on March 22, 2018, and with that, Zimbabwe were not going to the World Cup for the first time since 1983.
As for the UAE, they were, incredibly, also not going to the World Cup!
Dealing such a heavy blow to a Test nation was a massive result in the history of an emerging international cricket team, probably their own little World Cup.
Had the ICC not taken the Sprit of Cricket award from teams to individuals in 2011, last year’s accolade should simply have gone to UAE for playing to compete and win no matter the stakes — even if it means inflicting untold suffering on the opponent.
Picking through the wreckage of that shock UAE defeat has been a painstaking exercise for Zimbabwe to the extent that the already questionable integrity of some of the game’s current administrators has plummeted to new lows through allegations of match-fixing against the coach and players, which is, of course, a load of rubbish.
So poisonous has been the environment in the aftermath of the disaster that a few ill-willed individuals have emerged, chief amongst them a certain shadowy character, who has turned cyber-bullying into an art while hiding behind fake identity.
Now, this shameful fellow — believed to a top-ranking somebody in the game or his hired agent — majors in abuse and personal insults, going all-out offense against those he disagrees with among the cricket lovers who blame the administration of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) for the shambolic state of the game in Zimbabwe.
An easy target of his has particularly been poor Patrick Gada, the England-based youth coach and former Zimbabwe first-class player who has been unfortunate enough to have his dead parents insulted by this chap for daring to front public criticism against those entrusted with administering cricket in this country.
As if that is not vile enough, this imposter has gone as far as threatening to influence Gada’s deportation from the UK — despite him not only being legally resident in that country, but also an esteemed and highly-regarded member of the Nottinghamshire sporting community with credentials far better than those calling the shots in Zimbabwean cricket right now.
Other very good cricket people — who have also been singled out for persecution by this crude character for daring to speak out against mismanagement — have been accused of sickening all-male sexual encounters which, again, only exist in such a heart as his that devises wicked imaginations.
Only last week, the guy was at it again, this time around taking aim at national team kingpin Brendan Taylor who, like Gada, is however no push-over.
Like most compassionate citizens of our country who felt deeply touched by the heartbreaking video of a weeping Dr Azza Mashumba — a Parirenyatwa Hospital paediatrician who broke down on camera last month over the lack of basics needed to look after newly-born babies — Taylor’s crime was taking to Twitter to encourage authorities “to get our priorities right”, sharing a sad story of how his own domestic worker lost her three-day-old child due to poor maternal health services.
You would think, at times, that you have heard worse from cowardly types that hide behind a computer or cellphone to spew vitriol under the guise of fictitious names. But nothing quite makes you understand the disintegration of the human mind as shamelessly displayed by this imposter in a shocking reaction to Taylor’s tweet: implying he had been sent by David Coltart, that the cricketer didn’t have a mind of his own, that he felt “emboldened to speak more” these days because his friend Kirsty Coventry was now a minister, and then a thinly-veiled threat to the star Zimbabwe batsman that he should stick to scoring runs and not meddle in “politics”.
So according to this internet troll — because of Taylor’s racial group or perceived politics — he has no right to comment about other critical issues affecting the country, and also his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association to whosoever he wishes should be a tool to suppress his participation in other matters close to his heart.
Thankfully, such ludicrous thoughts found no takers among the genuine Twitter users and upstanding citizens of the country — interestingly all of them black — who not surprisingly reacted with extreme disgust and told this poisonous internet character what they think he is, a fool.
A year after cruelly shattering our World Cup dream, leaving Zimbabwean cricket in such a toxic environment that has bred wickedness amongst us, the UAE’s cricket team returns to this country for four historic One-Day Internationals beginning on Wednesday.
It’s an important series for Zimbabwe because, quite frankly, anything other than a convincing win will not suffice, a recipe for another blow-up probably bigger the size of what happened post-March 2018 when UAE left us to deal with obnoxious and uncouth characters hell-bent on poisoning society.