An inspiring victory for the Zimbabweans, a great moment to relish!
“I think Zimbabwean cricket will end up like Kenya,” a dejected Dav Whatmore, who was Zimbabwe’s coach two years ago lamented in an interview stating he had never been as poorly treated in his “21 years of coaching at International level”.
The crisis was real.
There were concerns that despite getting financial aid from ICC, Zimbabwe Cricket wasn’t using it well. They had taken large amounts of loans from local financial institutions in a four year period between 2009 and 2013, most of which went unpaid resulting in exorbitant interest rates. From the 9m USD, Zimbabwe Cricket was receiving from the ICC, more than one-third went into paying the interest of these loans.
The financial state of the board was so pathetic that the players were told in advance that they wouldn’t be paying their salaries in February earlier this year. From Heath Streak, the head coach at the time, to selectors, ZC sacked everyone. Seething with anger several players lashed out at the board but the financial crisis meant the board was more or less helpless. Cricbuzz had reported that their sources had conveyed that Zimbabwe was literally on the edge of being “chucked out”.
A few months later, things have become better with ICC announcing a “package of measures to allow Zimbabwe Cricket to stabilise its business and allow cricket to flourish in the country”. Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis have returned giving up Kolpak deals and the squad is starting to blossom.
This is going to be a splendid result for Zimbabwe whose cricketers are to be greatly admired for giving off their best amidst so many issues around them. Beating Bangladesh in away conditions is not easy at all.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) November 6, 2018
The first sign of growth is perhaps a morale-boosting Test win in Bangladesh, their first away Test win since 2001. The nearly seventeen years of wait has perhaps come at an opportune time for Zimbabwean cricket. Crippling financial issues, missing out on the plane for the World Cup and player-board issues for once remain in the background as Zimbabwe celebrate a rare win.
Make no mistake, Zimbabwe have had several such moments in the past few years, most notably when they won an ODI series in Sri Lanka and pushed the hosts in the one-off Test. But in the aftermath of nearly falling over the precipice, this is a remarkable moment in Zimbabwean Cricket’s turbulent journey.
Test wins away from home for @ZimCricketv
vs Pak, Peshawar, 1998 (7 wkts)
vs Ban, Chittagong, 2001 (8 wkts)
vs Ban, Sylhet, 2018 (151 runs)#BANvZIM
— Deepu Narayanan (@deeputalks) November 6, 2018
“We didn’t know what was going to happen in the future,” Raza had said a few months back in a startling revelation of the players’ mindset and the state of affairs in Zimbabwe. “So we just said, ‘Gentlemen, if this is going to be our last moment in the changing room, I’m going to be here all night with you guys.’ It might sound childish, but we just didn’t know who was going to walk back into that changing room.”
Things have taken a turn for the better and it may or may not last. But as they bask in the rare glory of an away Test win, each and every player in that dressing room knows he is a part of history. It seemed unlikely that Zimbabwe would even make this series a few months back, let alone win. That they overhauled Bangladesh in their own den by 151 runs is no mean feat.
Hosting the World Cup Qualifiers did play a part in ICC softening it’s stand to Zimbabwean cricket. They barely had time to prepare for the event with Ireland expected to host it until on short notice, it was decided Zimbabwe would. Even if they eventually did miss out, by a whisker it must be said, it marked a turnaround in terms of their financial condition. The ICC board softened and resulted in the current deal with ZC.
After four coaches, four captains four different selection panels and several other supporting coaches, Zimbabwe have finally settled down. The new deal has its constraints which Zimbabwe might have to keep up with but as ZC Chairman, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, put it, “what we now need to focus on is to make sure we are playing credible cricket.”
The first step towards that journey was laid at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium. That years of pain and toil finally bore fruit at Sylhet, which has had its own shares of problems in becoming a Test venue, may not be a mere coincidence. As they say, “everything happens for a reason”.
In Zimbabwean Cricket’s crest and trough journey, Sylhet will become a milestone like no other. This victory is a watershed moment in their history and it could go up or downhill from here, but the seeds of growth have been planted. It is upto the board, the people involved and the players themselves to keep nurturing it with water and manure.