Rebirth of a cricketing nation

On nine tours to India I have experienced nothing to change my view that, should I be limited to the choice of a single cricket playing nation to tour for the rest of my career, it would be India.

But spice markets and Hindu Temples have been around for thousands of years and they will be there for thousands more. So although the temptation to be a part of the eagerly anticipated clash between the world’s two highest Test-ranked nations was immense, I was not in Nagpur and will not be in Kolkatta.

Instead, I accepted an invitation to return to Zimbabwe after a prolonged absence of seven years and am about to start work on the inaugural ‘Zim 20’ domestic tournament involving the five local Franchise teams as well as the Namibian ‘Desert Vipers.’

Harare Sports Club has never looked so good and, to be absolutely honest, Zimbabwe Cricket has never had more of a buzz. Sponsors who abandoned the game during a decade of decay during the 2000s have returned and along with virtually all of the players who felt alienated enough to leave the game, and often the country, at some point in the last ten years.

Everywhere there is talk of ‘drawing a line in the sand’ and moving on for the good of the players and sake of the game. What is the point in dwelling on past disagreements and continuing to hold onto grudges which are past their sell-by date?

You are still required to walk directly under no less than four portraits of the president of the country on arrival at Harare International airport but otherwise, the man who occupies the presidential palace directly opposite Harare Sports Club, still surrounded by vicious-looking, bayonet wielding guards, occupies little or none of the conversation. There is an overwhelming belief that Zimbabwe Cricket can now hold its head up with pride as an independent, apolitical organisation which does its best to survive and is determined to prosper.

I have an open mind at this stage but the administrators at ZC have not only invited me to speak to whomever I wish but actively encouraged me to do so. Not only am I free to write and broadcast my findings, but I have been requested to do so. All in good time.

Right now there is a tournament to be staged and the players, including half a dozen or more from England, Australia and Kenya – and Rikki Wessels from SA (I think?) – are raring to go. Two games per day for nine days starting on Friday and finishing with the final on Saturday 20th.

The Mashonaland Eagles will start as favourites on their home ground but a good outside bet might be the Southern Rocks who boast the much-travelled Aussie all-rounder, Ian Harvey, in their ranks. 6000 tickets per day have been printed and every game will be televised on Supersport as well as in India. Many obstacles have been overcome just to get this far but, amongst the many achievements of the organisers before a ball has even been bowled, has been the profound embarrassment heaped on New Zealand’s timid administration for refusing to tour the country on the basis of an imaginary outbreak of cholera.

 

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