THE Zimbabwe cricket team’s stunning win over 2015 World Cup finalists New Zealand, in the first of three One Day Internationals at Harare Sports Club on Sunday, was a monumental victory that carries its weight in gold.
It’s a landmark victory, which has rightly been hailed both here at home and around the world, because it provided one of those refreshing moments, when sport’s equivalent of the biblical David, slays a Goliath favoured just about everyone to power to an easy win. That we did it in grand style, chasing down a huge total of over 300 and still win with seven wickets in hand, with man-of-the-match Sean Ervine smashing a maiden century in a winning cause, made the victory very special.
We showed the world that we could still play against the best nations on the globe and beat them, proving once again that, contrary to the regular sermons of the doomsday preachers, Zimbabwe cricket is still alive and healthy.
When Brendan Taylor, our best player in the past few years, decided to walk out on the national team and pursue a career at an English county, after the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, many rabid critics of Zimbabwe cricket started writing the game’s obituary.
Many said that this was the beginning of the end of the game and questioned not only the future of the game, but the competitiveness of our national team, both in the short and long term.
While losing a player of Taylor’s quality will always be felt by any team in the world, the reality is that we have shown that the game is larger than an individual and those who have remained behind, to fight for the cause of their nation, have seemingly doubled their efforts and deserve credit for their performances in the post-Brendan era.
Others also claimed that Taylor’s departure was likely to torch a wave of departures by white players from national team, similar to the events in the game about 10 years ago, which left the sport in paralysis and forced the game’s leaders to withdraw the country from the Test arena.
But that Ervine and Sean Williams, two white players, were there at the end, to carry us home in that landmark victory over New Zealand, proves that the predictions of those who felt that Zimbabwe Cricket will be destroyed by yet another wave of racial issues, were not only premature, but clearly misguided. For the reality is that the new Zimbabwe Cricket chairman, Wilson Manase, has opened the game to everyone who is good enough to play it — black, white, Indian or coloured — to fight for a place in our national teams and win a place on merit rather than the colour of their skin.
Manase has also brought in administrators, on the basis of their pedigree rather than the colour of their skin and slowly, we are having a Zimbabwe Cricket leadership that knows what is needed to take the game forward.
For a country like ours, ranked right at the bottom of the ODI rankings among the elite nations, to attract a coach like Dav Whatmore, who has won the World Cup and is regarded as one of the best in the world and make him commit his future to turning us into a competitive team, is in itself a vote of confidence in the potential that we have as a nation of scaling heights in this game.
To his credit, Whatmore didn’t promise us that he will make us a world-beating nation in just a few months in the job, pleading for patience from the nation as he tries to work his magic to make the national team competitive and make the players believe that they can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world.
Slowly, we are seeing the fruits of Whatmore’s investment and the decision to move Ervine into the critical number three position, in the batting line-up, in the ODI tie against New Zealand on Sunday, was a masterstroke. Of course, one swallow does not make a summer and a single victory over New Zealand will be meaningless if we don’t maintain the high standards that we set ourselves on Sunday and win more matches as we go forward.
We need to show the world that the victory over the Black Caps was not a fluke and we can only do that by winning more matches, including the remaining two ODI matches, and the forthcoming Twenty20 ties against the New Zealanders.
In an era where our national sporting discipline, football, is trapped in a quagmire of mediocrity, with the country banned from the 2018 World Cup, the Young Warriors failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games and the Mighty Warriors failing to fulfil their Olympic Games qualifier, it’s refreshing that cricket is flexing its muscles again and giving the people of this country something to smile about.
There were hundreds of supporters at Harare Sports Club on Sunday and it was good, for a change, that they all left a happy lot after their team had powered to a huge victory.