September 3, 2013

Pakistan in Zimbabwe 2013

The experience of arriving in Zimbabwe again

Firdose Moonda
Air Zimbabwe being prepped for departure, Harare, September 2, 2013
Air Zimbabwe is currently under the domain of Ozias Bvute, the former chief executive of Zimbabwe Cricket  © Firdose Moonda
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One of the excitements of touring Zimbabwe occurs long before one arrives in the country. Getting there is an experience on its own. While Harare is as much a capital city as London or Mumbai, it cannot be reached as seamlessly, even from right next door.

Most Zimbabweans who travel between South Africa and their home do so on the road. The queue at the Beit Bridge border can snake for kilometers, and having ticked if off my list during a long bus journey to Bulawayo two years ago, I decided I'd prefer not to go that route again.

Instead, I chose the national carrier - Air Zimbabwe - to make my way there. The airline is now headed up by the man who used to be in charge of Zimbabwe Cricket - Ozias Bvute - and it seems to be doing much better than its sporting counterpart. Just six months ago, it relaunched after being grounded for over two years.

At first, it was only flying internally twice a week between Harare and Bulawayo, and then on to Victoria Falls. Now, it flies six days a week to multiple locations, including two daily trips to Johannesburg.

At current prices, which have been advertised as a limited-time only special of less than US$350 return, the flights are popular. So popular, that the only one I could book would get me in on the eve of the Test. Evening became night when a combination of a South African airport workers' strike and a Zimbabwe flight staff issue conspired to delay the journey for hours.

A small part of OR Tambo International became my office and it was from there I learned of some of the most important recent developments of southern African cricket. While contemplating and working on how the South African franchises will cope with what seems to be a severely shortened summer schedule, I received an unexpected message.

It was Brendan Taylor, the Zimbabwean captain. He wanted to confirm his team would take the field despite threats of a boycott because they hoped to be paid in time for the second Test against Pakistan.

But the skipper himself wasn't sure if he would be able to play. His fiancee, Kelly, was in her eighth hour of labour and there were no signs the baby was going to emerge soon. "She was induced at 9am but nothing much happened. I think she's starting to feel something now, so that's good," he told me. "As long as he arrives at a reasonable hour, I'll play. Otherwise..."

As Taylor's thoughts tailed off, boarding drew closer. Air Zimbabwe was proud to welcome guests on ERJ 145. The aircraft is Brazilian manufactured and brand new. It won't do for journeys longer than about 90 minutes because it's fairly cramped, with only three seats per row - a two-seater and a single - and not much leg-room. But the service on it was exceptional. A cold snack, a drink, a level surface to work on and some time to think.

Touchdown happened in the moonlight and I have only one thing to say about it: If the Zimbabwe series and the BCCI and CSA can unfold as peacefully as the way I arrived, everything will be ok in the end, after all.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by grahaam on (September 4, 2013, 18:05 GMT)

Unsure if Air Zim will be well maintained under that dictatorship, the guy took over from Vince Hogg in Zimbabwe Cricket and until that time it was progress and results all the way for ZC ...His 10 years at ZC displayed nothing but controversy, decline and dispute.Unfortunately this legacy lives on... Nothing personal I do not know the guy, but the facts are part of history.

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