On arrival in Harare six days ago my first task was to conduct a media seminar for journalists and others working on the periphery of journalism to address the perception of Zimbabwe Cricket within the rest of the cricket playing world and to focus on what Zimbabwean cricket stakeholders could reasonably do to accelerate and propagate the rebirth of the game in the country.
The news that Zimbabwe Cricket was inseparable from Zimbabwe ‘the country’ came as an unwelcome jolt of reality to the majority of the 15 members of the group but was, nonetheless, accepted. Tales of hunger, political bullying and other methods of human rights ‘discomfort’ have been far more widely read around the world than anything cricket lovers have managed to achieve.
It came as a shock to locals that many cricket lovers, mostly from the white and ‘western’ nations, could not bring themselves to recognise let alone support Zimbabwe Cricket while news stories of hardship and land invasions dominated the perception of the country.
Most of those stories were written or broadcast in good faith – but by people who were either disinclined or unable to actually be in the country. There is a huge difference between being here and following up on gossip, even if it is well informed.
Former Zimbabwe national captain, Alistair Campbell, has been at the heart of the revival of the game at both national and international level with the instigation of the Franchise system and then the current domestic T20 tournament taking place at Harare Sports Club but he has had to overcome constant hurdles.
Three minutes before the first match last Friday a power surge caused the television production desk to short-circuit. An emergency crew was despatched to the ZBC where an old studio was located and, with permission from the station manager and payment of a hefty bill, the desk was removed from the studio with wire and bolt-cutters and rewired into the outside broadcast van. It was the kind of creativity and determination for which Zimbabweans have become renown.
If anybody ever doubted the power of television in sport they see the galvanising effect of Supersport’s coverage on the sponsors, spectators and administrators. Whatever the reality of the situation, the perception amongst Zimbabwe cricket lovers is that they really are climbing out of the basement and back onto the ground floor of world cricket. And as we all know, perception is reality.
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