THE sadness will linger longer than one can possibly imagine, the pain and hurt will not wane any time soon, while the absolute shock and trauma may last and affect an entire generation.
What transpired on Tuesday, July 2,2023 at Queens Cricket Sports Club in Bulawayo when the hosts Zimbabwe somehow contrived to lose against Scotland thereby failing to secure their place at the 2023 World Cup Cricket tournament, was inexplicable and mind boggling.
Instead, they were quilted by the mac-nificent Scots and reduced once more to the status of bystanders, also-rans and beginners.
It moreover represented a repeat of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
It’s an especially depressing situation since this is a tournament in which Zimbabwe once lit up.
Veteran cricket enthusiasts will have vivid recollections of stirring Zimbabwean performances in previous World Cups.
Zimbabwe’s first ever World Cup appearance in 1983 was perhaps their most impactful.
Captained capably by Duncan Fletcher (who would actually go on to eventually coach England and India with distinction) the side shocked Australia as well as narrowly losing to eventual champions India.
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In the 1987 tourney, current Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton reminded the world of his extraordinary abilities with a man of the match swashbuckling 142 against New Zealand while the fancied favourites South Africa of 1999 will never be able to erase the memories of their not so streaky loss to our talisman Heath Streak and his terrific troops.
And yet here we are in 2023 sitting out yet another World Cup 50 over tournament.
It’s an understatement, but Zimbabwe cricket has been in the doldrums for almost an entire generation.
Our cricket bloomed and blossomed when the Flower brothers Andy and Grant carried the mantle, but along the way there have been too many hiccups.
These included the mass exodus of the world class prodigious talent Graeme Hick and countless others including Gary Ballance and Trevor Penney, which unsettled and unbalanced the side.
Persistent and lengthy in house fighting and administrative wrangles were par for the course but with this new group of players and a streamlined better run cricket administration, it was genuinely felt that the class of 2023 had at last turned the corner.
Indeed, with this current generation of players, there was that expectancy.
There was hope and belief that we had turned a new page, that we had turned a new leaf, that our national team would get us over the line to the new frontier.
Indeed the World Cup qualifiers had started off unerringly well for Zimbabwe who ended the group stages proudly unbeaten but on the crucial day as I watched the drama unfold, I couldn’t help but feel that Scotland while producing a stunning performance themselves, had not beaten Zimbabwe.
We instead had played like we had the weight of the nation on our shoulders and had inflicted the defeat on ourselves with our lads ultimately succumbing to the pressure of the occasion.
In the end we were too dependent on the sensational duo of Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams.Raza rightfully entered the tournament acknowledged as arguably the finest one day all-rounder in the game and was true to form in the group stages.
Strangely for someone who’s mastered the art of getting his eye in pretty early, I find it astonishing that the very same Raza was denied acceptance in his earlier years to the famed Pakistan Air Force on the basis of a failed eye test!
Raza and Zimbabwe cricket should count their blessings!
Williams on the other hand ended the tournament as the most valuable player on the back of a monumental 600 runs at an astounding average of 100!
It’s fair comment to say that Williams emergence as a world class star has happened late in his career but he certainly always had the look, the professionalism and the genes of an elite sportsman.
Williams’ dad was none other than the late Collin (Porge)Williams who himself was a sportsman of outstanding repute and skill and in his prime was acknowledged as one of the leading hockey players in the world.
Porge’s wife (they were later separated) and Sean’s mum meanwhile was Pat McKillop who was a part of the Zimbabwe Golden Girls hockey team who shortly after Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980 claimed a historic gold medal at the Moscow Olympics.
McKillop had the honour of being the joint leading scorer at the Olympics with six goals.
In the home of the Bolsheviks, this was no mean feat!
Zimbabwe has over the years been blessed with an abundance of outstanding gifted stars who in many instances have forged new distinctive careers away from their homeland. Imagine if you would, this current Zimbabwe side being bolstered by the dynamic Zimbabwean Curran brothers playing with aplomb for England and New Zealand’s Zimbabwean Colin de Grandhomme and you now have a side capable of going head to Travis head with the Aussies.
Australia lest we forget is the same country who for years enjoyed the services of our very own David Pocock as their rugby captain.
Meanwhile I doubt that there is a more iconic rugby figure in South Africa than the widely loved and respected Tendai Beast Mtawarira.
I could go on waxing lyrical about Zimbabwe’s departed sports stars, but I’m simply trying to draw attention to the fact that Zimbabwe as a country with a small population and limited resources has for an eternity unearthed sporting gems who have by and large overachieved on the sports field.
I’d like to back this up with my own truly unscientific perspective!
Zimbabwe probably in all likelihood has as many active cricketers as a single suburb of Johannesburg or Sydney or for that matter a village on the outskirts of Mumbai!
I’m embellishing this, but I doubt we have as many active first class rugby players in total as Pretoria University or a New Zealand Māori veteran club!
And yet this same country against all the odds impossibly continues to hold its head high producing ridiculously good talent covering all aspects of the game.
At present, Pommie Mbangwa gets my vote as the outstanding cricket commentator in the world game while an ex-junior football teammate of mine, Neil Hatley is the Australian rugby union forward coach.
The first African to become the world karate champion is our very own Sensei Samson Muripo.
Whether it be Nick or our other priceless golfers;our remarkable swimmers and divers and here I’m reminiscing of Kirsty Coventry,Evan Stewart,Tracy Cox and Antonette Wilken; our tennis sensations Byron,Wayne and Cara who were the first to come out in the open and alert the world that in Zimbabwe, the Blacks do matter;or our footballers exemplified by legendary stalwarts Bruce Grobelaar and Peter Ndlovu,our stars have truly left an indelible impression.
Today our marvellous football players ply their trade across all corners of the globe but my all-time favourite was the Dynamos legend Moses Chunga.
He could carve open a defence like Moses split the Red Sea, but sadly he only got to play in Europe when he was well past his best and also blighted with injury.
As a sporting nation we have so much to be grateful for.
We may not have qualified for this year’s World Cup but let’s show our cricketers some love and not be too hard on them.
It’s a miracle that in the circumstances, we even manage to achieve these standards.
Just take solace knowing that our boys will be back and that’s a given.
We will rise again until our team succeeds and prospers and our nation will deservedly bask in the glory.
For this year though, in the final outcome, once RAZA was back in the hut, we all knew our boys were staying at EKHAYA
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