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Heath Streak and Grant Flower are having to quit Zimbabwe cricket for the second time; the pair is disappointed that it has come down to this, and anxious about the future of the cricketers they are leaving behind
May 27, 2014
Six years later, they returned. Flower made a playing comeback, albeit short-lived, and was then appointed Zimbabwe's batting coach. Streak was signed on as bowling coach. Together with Alan Butcher, Stephan Mangongo and later Andy Waller, their oversaw Zimbabwe's successful return to Test cricket despite financial difficulties.
But in the last two weeks, Steak and Flower left Zimbabwean cricket a second time; Streak to become Bangladesh's bowling coach, a year after his contract for the same role in his home country was not renewed, and Flower to work as Pakistan's batting guru, even though he still holds the job in Zimbabwe. Both cite the opportunity to work with a team that plays regularly as their primary reason for moving on, and both admit to being "very worried" about the cricketers they are leaving behind.
"The alarm bells are ringing and I am definitely concerned. Zimbabwe Cricket is pushing people away," Streak told ESPNcricinfo. "It seems like money is the main problem."
Zimbabwe Cricket's (ZC) precarious financial position stunted the second coming of the game. In 2011, ZC hosted Bangladesh, Pakistan and New Zealand, tours which then-managing director Ozias Bvute explained would cost them more than they make but they remained optimistic. Commercial partners continued to back the game even as the debts racked up.
In early 2012, Zimbabwe travelled to New Zealand but that would be the last Test match they would play for 14 months. Money ran out, despite incoming funds from their share of profits from 2012 World T20. By the time Zimbabwe played a bilateral series again, in the Caribbean in March 2013, the funds had become so thin neither Streak nor Flower could make the trip. Cost-cutting also meant Zimbabwe went without their fitness trainer.
Shortly after that tour, Streak's contract ran out and he was informed it could not be renewed. "They left me in the cold without a job and that was after I had brought quite a few bowlers through at international level and coached a franchise successfully," he said. "It was really quite disappointing."
Flower was kept on although he went without pay like the players and the rest of the ZC staff for months in 2013, when a visit by Sri Lanka had to be postponed, a tour from Afghanistan cancelled and a player strike resulted in inactivity in the domestic game during peak season. An advance of US$3 million from the ICC eventually got ZC back on its feet, salaries were paid and "financially things are better now", Flower admitted. But only just. ZC applied for another loan from the ICC that was initially turned down and then offered to them subject to stringent conditions, which ZC rejected. "We still don't know why that package was refused and that's part of the concerns," Streak said.
All that means Zimbabwe may be set for more tough times and a further drain in the months to come. They are scheduled to play South Africa in a one-off Test and three ODIs August, followed by a tri-series that will include Australia. Sources in Zimbabwe say the fixtures will go ahead, with the players set to meet for fitness tests next week and begin training later in June.
Flower will still work with the team through June before relocating to Lahore where he hopes to begin work on August 1. "I am trying to evolve as a coach and wanted to move somewhere where I can challenge myself a bit more and be with a team that plays more," Flower said. "There are some good young players coming through in Pakistan and even though I am a but nervous, I am looking forward to it. I feel for the Zimbabwe players. I developed close relationships - professionally and as a friend. I hope things get sorted and they can get some more cricket to play."
Streak, who has remained a mentor to some of the Zimbabwe attack despite no direct involvement, will head to Dhaka next month where he will begin work immediately. "Coaching an international team gives me a fantastic opportunity," he said. "I really enjoyed doing the job in Zimbabwe and I am looking forward different challenges with Bangladesh.
"It's a very exciting team. One of the areas I will be concentrating on is having a consistent attack because experience at international level is a huge thing so to have. Chopping and changing all the time is not good. My first task will be identify who can take them forward over the next couple of years, and we'll be working the towards the 2015 World Cup."
The message from both of them is that they are looking ahead - something they may not have been able to do in the Zimbabwean set-up. "Zimbabwe Cricket did not invest in the development of coaches. If they did, they wouldn't have cancelled my contract or let Grant go," Streak said. "I am disappointed in them, because I know you won't get a more dedicated coach than Grant. I am glad he is going somewhere where he will be appreciated, and I hope I can achieve the same in Bangladesh."
And if he can't, this time Streak has something to return to. After being cut by ZC, he started an academy in Bulawayo, which has received corporate funding and is being managed by former international Gavin Ewing. "The academy is about providing a place for people who want to learn to play the game, and eventually to produce players who could go on to play for Zimbabwe," Streak said. His hope is that there will be a future for those cricketers that will not include them wanting to leave the country's cricket behind, like he has had to do. Twice.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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