June 24, 2001

Why Streak resigned as captain - and then changed his mind

Shockwaves reverberated through Zimbabwe cricket early on Saturday morning when, before the start of their opening match against West Indies in the one-day triangular tournament, Heath Streak announced his resignation as national captain.

"It has been a long time coming," Streak said in a television interview after the match. "I've had a lot of communication problems, in particular with the selection panel, and I feel that they don't have any confidence in me. So I thought it would be best for them and the team that I stood down as captain. It's unfortunate, but they knew about this as early as Wednesday. We had discussed it with the selectors before.

"I have a lot of pride and passion in playing for my country, and I have the support of the team. They didn't want this to happen, but I thought that was the best I should do for them."

However, a couple of hours later, after a meeting with Zimbabwe Cricket Union president Peter Chingoka and other ZCU officials, Streak was happy to rescind his resignation. He said that the problem areas had been resolved and that Mr Chingoka had given him his full support and asked him to continue as captain.

The main problem area was that of selection. It is an open secret that there has been political interference in the selection processes in Zimbabwe cricket, with certain activists determined to push more "players of colour" into the national side when, strictly speaking, they would not qualify on merit. Many of the players, who are proud of their country and take a pride in their team's performance, have been for some time unhappy and unsettled in their belief that the best available national team is not being selected.

Sources close to the team say that the matter came to a head with the selection of the side for Saturday's match against West Indies, when the captain and coach disagreed with the selectors over the inclusion of, it is believed, three of the players in the team. Incidentally two of them were white. As part of the agreement between Streak and the ZCU, Streak and coach Carl Rackemann have been appointed to the selection panel, which now numbers an unwieldy eight.

Streak also said that various assurances that had been given to him in the past by the selectors and administrators had not been acted upon. At the meeting on Saturday night, he said, he had been promised that in future the promised action would be taken.

Undoubtedly the captaincy crisis and the reasons behind it affected the national side, who have played poorly and lost their first two matches in the triangular tournament, probably putting themselves out of the running for the final. With last year's threatened strike in England fresh in the memory, it is unfortunate that the administrators do not appear to respond to the players' concerns until they take extreme measures. Whether they like it or not, the fact is that the players will not perform at their best on the field unless they are happy off it.

It remains to be seen whether the reconciliation will last. Several sources close to the centre of Zimbabwe cricket believe that the underlying problems are still there and will resurface before long. The national side will never perform at its best until players and administrators are on the same side and pulling together. And in such situations, the ball is always in the administrators' court.