THE biggest sporting news this week was the announcement by the International Cricket Council (ICC) that Zimbabwe would host the 2023 World Cup finals qualifying tournament in 2022.
The announcement brought widespread excitement to cricket enthusiasts who will be looking forward to two weeks of exhilarating action, if the script is to follow that of the 2018 qualifiers, also hosted in Zimbabwe.
The awarding of the hosting rights is clear testimony that the ICC were pleased with the show that Zimbabwe put up in 2018 and a vote of confidence on the Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) administration.
Yet amid all the excitement let’s not get carried away and miss a great opportunity like we have already seen in the past.
Fair enough, if Zimbabwe were to fail to nail an automatic qualifying spot among the seven on offer despite the advantage playing the qualifiers at home.
Of course, after the 2018 heartbreak, where Zimbabwe failed to nail a spot at the 2019 edition following a shock defeat to the United Arab Emirates in their final match, to hand Afghanistan the initiative, no one really wants to go through the qualifying tournament route.
If Zimbabwe were to qualify automatically and would not be involved in the qualifiers, what then are the benefits of hosting such an event?
They are many, or rather they should be a host of them.
Tourism may be the key benefaciary, but ZC should be the biggest winner at the end of it all.
From the last tournament, in truth, there was really nothing much the country benefited from hosting the tournament, except for the free entertainment for the lovers of this game.
Harare Sports Club, except for a couple of movable cubicles on the right side of the VIP stand, is still what it was before the tournament was held.
Queens Sports Club is still what it was before and Old Hararians Sports Club, one of the main venues of the previous edition, is still the eyesore that it was before then.
Some of the key buildings at the Harare Sports Club and Bulawayo’s Queens Sports Club are a legacy of the 2003 World Cup, for which Zimbabwe hosted some matches.
We have nothing to show for hosting the 2018 qualifiers except the bitter memories of the painful defeat, for which some are still searching for answers.
The development of the game owes a lot to the development of infrastructure and Zimbabwe have to take advantage and make sure that after the jamboree, facilities will resemble state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Old Hararians hardly resembles an international cricket facility, and hope is that after the tournament in 2022, it will be a better facility.
Harare Sports Club should also look better than it is as should Queens in Bulawayo as well as the facilities in Kwekwe and Mutare.
This is an opportunity to spread the game and make sure other centres can also benefit and the development of the game can be aided.
Obviously, ICC will assist Zimbabwe in making sure the facilities are on point and we should guarantee the improvements are not limited to just a new lick of paint.
This an opportunity for ZC to make more strides and stretch the gap between them and the chasing pack.