What the future holds for Zimbabwe August 11, 2006

Timely success just a re-building block for now

Steven Price
Steven Price on what Zimbabwe's one-day series win means to the country
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The series win against Bangladesh is hoped to be the foundation on which Zimbabwe cricket will witness its revival © Getty Images

There is no denying Zimbabwe cricket its moment in the sun following the team's rare dose of success in the ODI series against Bangladesh, with or without the eight-wicket defeat in the last match which wrapped up the series at 3-2.

That "it's only Bangladesh" they won against, a side they have dominated until a crisis-torn side lost a historic Test and ODI series on the subcontinent last year, does not make it less sweeter for Zimbabwe under the circumstances.

Zimbabwe's series win comes at a timely moment for them, hard on the heels of a fact-finding mission to the country by ICC's new president Percy Sonn, and his chief executive Malcolm Speed.

The series win has obviously proven again that the talent is there in Zimbabwe, that they have a team that can compete, and a team still capable of beating peer opposition such as Bangladesh, and certainly for the time being, Kenya. The ICC will take note.

The series victory is a major landmark as Zimbabwe struggles to mend its defaced public image. The last notable achievement came a few months back when, after losing an ODI series in the West Indies, they bounced back with easy victories over Bermuda and Canada. That triumph dispelled, and convincingly so, suggestions that they had plummeted to the levels of the Associate nations.

The public interest in Zimbabwe cricket is another area that the game will draw positives from, after the series win. The series has seen the largest and most enthusiastic crowds since the desertion by senior players began. They sang and cheered their young heroes all the way, spurring on every single run, every wicket, and every win. The pitch celebrations that followed the first win was an outpouring of long-harboured yearning for something positive to cheer about in a troubled game, and country.

The players' lap of honour after the series clinching-win on Friday brought them and the fans into total harmony. For the administrators, the sight of spectators going into overdrive must have left them amazed. Here was a reminder of the power of sport, even in a country that is going to rack and ruin. Zimbabwe Cricket is accountable to a constituency way larger than itself, for these fans are mostly sensible Zimbabweans who, if things go wrong, are bound to ask questions and lay blame on the perpetrators.



This series has seen the largest and most enthusiastic crowds since the desertion by senior players © Getty Images

There is a high likelihood, on the other hand, that Zimbabwe's win is going to help the egos of some battle-hardened members of the interim leadership, who will want to use the win as an opportunity to get back at their critics. This will be ill-advised, and regrettable. The Bangladesh win is only a start. Only those who are intolerably short-sighted can be carried away.

Zimbabwe cricket has faced sharp criticism, albeit from people who are truly concerned about the future of the game in the country, otherwise they would simply wash their hands and not waste time and energy. Beating Bangladesh should be a victory for everyone within the set-up of Zimbabwe cricket.

With Test cricket not set to return until the end of next year a lot more character has to be shown by the Zimbabwe team. In the meanwhile, more longer-version games have been proposed against strong A sides. If they continue in this period, from where they finished against Bangladesh, or better still improve, Zimbabwe will be taken seriously again.

To build on that Bangladesh win is what every sensible person is talking about. Building on the win means a lot of things. It means getting back players who have left, and finding a good blend with the current crop. It means bringing back transparency in the constitutional process and administration system. It means cultivating confidence, and winning back the trust of each other in spite of past differences.

Most importantly it means healing domestic cricket, as the lifeblood of the game in the country. Already, some splinter clubs are reported to be coming back into "the official system" to form a stronger national league next season. It also means clipping the wings of individuals and eradicating repression, and bringing sanity and transparency into selection.

This requires good faith if it is to be done. Ultimatums and mudslinging have failed. Stakeholders, the influencial older people in Zimbabwe cricket, owe it to each other to revive Zimbabwe cricket together. They owe it to the players, who get entangled in a trap when they fight. And they owe it to the supporters, and to everyone who cares about Zimbabwe cricket.