THE historic Test cricket win Zimbabwe notched against visiting Pakistan in Harare on Saturday was not only a fitting finale to a difficult series but it sent a lot of people, including President Robert Mugabe, purring with all sorts of adjectives as well as feelings of nostalgia.
It also reminded some of the old advertising étude — let the good times roll!
The reverberations of Zimbabwe’s win went as far as Pakistan where cricket greats like former national skipper Ramiz Raja and paceman Shoaib Akhtar joined a chorus for change and blame apportioning.
Some are blaming the Pakistan Cricket Board while others want the national coach, Australian Dav Whatmore, sacked after hardly a year in the post.
The Asians could just not stomach a defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe, a team that returned to the Test arena only two years ago following a six-year exile enforced by lack of players and political meddling in the sport.
Enough has been said about the greatness of this victory, especially coming after a dozen years since the last Test victory against India in 2001. The star of the show was 21-year-old bowler Tendai Chatara who had a five-wicket haul for a very economical 61 from 23 overs that included two maidens.
The prayer and hope of every Zimbabwean, especially those linked to cricket, is that this win will be the return of the good old times when cricket became a household sport on the back of enthralling performances against big Test countries.
Cricket began to be played on the dust bowls of our township streets, with plastic and rags balls and home-made square planks for bats and one or two in five kids understood the language of wickets, runs, bowling, batting and all the other terms associated with cricket.
Of course, cricket has been dying now, slowly, but surely and the triumph has given Zimbabwe Cricket the controlling body of the sport in the country — a hell of a chance to rebuild the sport.
In the rebuilding exercise, it is important that cricket authorities get the support of all quarters, but especially the government and the corporate world.
The government can play a greater role by ensuring, first and foremost, that there is no political meddling in the sport as this has contributed to problems in cricket in the past and also sourcing financial support from political friends while the corporate world should surely now be in a stampede to sponsor the national team.
Pakistanis, in the country for a seven-match tour that comprised two Twenty20 ties, three one-day internationals and two Tests, while going back home somewhat dejected — won both the shortened series and tied the Tests at one apiece.
As a result of the win on Saturday, Zimbabwe is now ranked ninth out of 10 Test-playing countries with neighbours South Africa number one and Bangladesh 10th.
Talking of nostalgia, there must have been lots of a longing for the long-forgotten Zifa Cup at the Mbada Holdings Diamonds Cup draw in Harare last Friday as the country was suddenly and surprisingly, told that the tournament was now the official Football Association Cup, going by reports in some sections of the media.
Nostalgia maybe for some form of “Anglicised” FA Cup or maybe for the Zifa Cup, but with the awareness that the sponsors do not want the appendage Zifa to their tournament!
Mbada Holdings must be congratulated for increasing the prizemoney for the country’s richest knock-out tournament to a whopping $440 000 made up of $130 000 for winning the trophy and the balance as subsidy to fund the winners’ participation in the Caf Confederations Cup, the African continent’s second-tier competition after the Champions League.
Last year the winners walked away with $70 000 and the almost 100% increase is way above the inflation rate and shows Mbada Holdings’s deep commitment to the community that they serve, to borrow a phrase from a well-known advertisement.
Thumbs up to Mbada for such a wonderful and worthwhile piece of corporate social investment! It would be wonderful and a boon for sport in Zimbabwe if other companies followed this example, whatever discipline they choose to support.
However, trying to term the Mbada Holdings Diamonds Cup the FA Cup is a misnomer and misleading to say the least.
The football association cup the world over involves all football clubs in the country, including even those playing in social leagues — ask Chris
Mhlanga the former Eastlands and Highlanders player who was among the founders of Mthala social club in his old age! In other words, clubs from the lower leagues, at least, should participate in this tournament if it is to be a football association cup in the true sense.
Therefore, while Mbada Diamonds Cup remains at the apex of knock-out tournaments in the country, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) must do all in their power to find sponsors to fund a truly Zifa Cup and maybe this is where the new Sport ministry could come in handy.