It's just not Cricket
Zimbabwe has a proud record of sporting prowess. Just after
1980, we won a gold at the Olympics with our women's hockey team, we
the Black family in tennis where the two boys and Cara have excelled
many years - reaching the very top of the world tennis circuit. In
racing we had John Love, we also had a world class motor cyclist, Ray
and of course our golfers - Nick Price etc.
My own son played field hockey for Zimbabwe after independence and
they did not enjoy the same fame as our "golden girls" they were world
class - certainly in the top 10 countries. In swimming we were always
there and right now we have Kirsty Coventry doing her thing in the
breaking world records and winning medals. Then came our cricket team.
sporting fraternity is tiny - I doubt if we have more than a few
playing cricket at any one time for local clubs. Yet somehow, we were
to put together a team that qualified for world-class test status - the
second African State after South Africa to do so.
One of the reasons was my half brother, Bill Flower. Bill is a sports
fanatic - he went to Cape Town University, played sport for a number of
years, failed his degree programme and came home. He then spent the
his life in Zimbabwe pouring his passion for sport into his boys. Two
whom became the backbone of the Zimbabwe cricket squad - Andy and
Both still play world-class cricket but no longer at home. Bill also
lives in Britain.
One of the problems with all these achievements has been that most of
star players were white Africans like me. Bill put a lot of effort into
development of cricket in Zimbabwe and players like Tabu came out of
stable. In fact Bill tutored a number of the most promising young black
players when he lived here. The present World Junior golf champion is a
wonderful young black Zimbabwean so we are slowly making progress in
There is of course every reason why young Zimbabweans should go for
a gateway to the world. If you can play at a reasonable level it
good income these days and providing you do not ignore the need to get
decent education and some other experience it can also lay the
for a wonderful and fulfilling career. But for this to happen you have
have a platform. Either a family (like the Flowers, the Prices and the
Blacks) who will believe in their children, pour themselves into that
and make things possible for them to achieve what they have achieved in
world of sport. Or you need a nurturing and supportive industry that
see to it that promising young talent gets the training and the
to excel. This is what is happening in countries like Australia - their
brilliant sporting record is no accident.
This past week has seen Zimbabwe withdraw from world-class test cricket
face expulsion. It is a tragedy and one that could have easily been
and instead turned into a great morale boosting championship saga that
have improved our status as a nation and help correct our very damaging
reputation as a country. On a trip to the UK many years ago I was a
a small cocktail party in London as a commodity specialist. Talking to
elderly businessman from the City about Zimbabwe he mentioned to me how
he admired our record in the ICC championships - not knowing that I was
related to the two Flower boys. He then went on to say, and I have
forgotten this comment "There is nothing wrong with a country that can
first class cricket."
He is so right and that is why Zimbabwean cricket with its bright
excellent academy for young talent and a world class coaching system
anomaly in this country. In all other respects we are a failed State.
spectacle of a world class team (India, Pakistan, England or Australia)
playing in Zimbabwe on an immaculate green cricket field on a clear
day was always a bit of a shock for those of us in food and fuel queues
watching the shambles that the rest of the economy was in.
The world system for cricket meant that we received ample funding for
development, perks and pay for our professional players and a real
for development of the game. Now all gone. The local thugs and thieves
simply could not keep their hands off when it was apparent that there
money to be made and spent. The fact that the majority of the key
were white, like commercial farming, simply made it an easy target, one
stripped of any possibility of protection from violence and
the racist policies of Robert Mugabe and his crew. Never forgetting
has been "patron" of Zimbabwe cricket for many years.
As for football - our national game, we have never got anywhere. Our
has failed and disappointed us at every turn and the main reason is not
talent - we have plenty of that - just look at the players working in
in Europe and South Africa, but simply a corrupt and incompetent
football administration. Again just too much money and power - the
that attract the killer moths of Zanu PF to come in and destroy what
potential there is in the game.
Sport, like culture and music, is an important part of national life.
plays a key role in maintaining a healthy population, creates
opportunity and can be a great foreign exchange earner. In addition
no better way to promote a country than through its leading sports
personalities and sporting achievements.
So sport becomes another casualty of this Zanu PF regime. This corrupt,
power hungry minority who ride the Tiger and know they can never afford
get off. Lets hope their grip on the Tigers mane slips soon and they
off and get eaten, Then at least we can start to put Zimbabwe back on
map with positive stories about the achievements of our people. Perhaps
day soon we will again be able to watch world-class sportsmen and women
some of them our own children - out there on our playing fields and in
swimming pools, competing to achieve the accolade that they are the
there is in the world. Not because they are black or white, but just
Bulawayo 21st January 2006.