THIS has been a particularly bright week for Zimbabwean sport, as Zimbabweans at home and abroad had so much to discuss from hockey, football and cricket.
It always feels good to see our athletes back on the field after braving what had been a particularly difficult period in the last two years due to Covid-19.
The year has started on a feisty note for the country’s sports sector. It is very impressive to note that four national team representatives are getting involved in international assignments in the first month of 2022.
And, the events in the past few days have demonstrated that Zimbabwe has the great potential to compete on the international stage with success.
There have been some doses of good news coming back home. Zimbabweans had a pleasant experience on Tuesday, highlighted by victories in hockey, cricket and football, all coming on the same day, in competitions that they have been involved in.
The women’s field hockey team recovered from a bad start to reach the semi-finals at the 2022 Women’s Hockey Africa Cup of Nations. To achieve the feat, they thrashed Uganda 5-0 and followed that up with a 1-1 draw against Namibia.
Then, the senior men’s cricket team ensured that hosts Sri Lanka will not have it on a silver platter in the three-match One Day International series that ended in the island nation yesterday.
Zimbabwe again were very competitive after recovering from the loss they had suffered in the first match. The Chevrons, as the team is fondly known in cricket circles, upstaged Sri Lanka in their backyard with a 22-run victory in the second match, to set the stage for a thrilling finish.
It was important to note that this series was part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League, which carries points in the qualification process for next year’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup to be held in India.
The win helped Zimbabwe rise three places up the Super League table and also came with improved rankings for players.
It was such a commendable effort against a side that is ranked way above them on the ICC ODI team rankings. The Chevrons only need to make it a habit of winning games. Consistent performances are required in that respect.
Again in cricket, probably the best news this week was the nomination of women’s cricket team bowler, Loryn Phiri, in the International Cricket Council T20I Team of the Year. This is massive recognition, more like Knowledge Musona making it in the FIFA Team of the Year.
The ICC Team of the Year acknowledges the best players who entertained one and all with their performances in a calendar year and Phiri’s efforts did not go unnoticed.
Phiri played nine T20I matches for Zimbabwe last year, and claimed a stunning 16 wickets, including best figures of 5/6. Her bowling average stood at a stunning 7.18.
She was voted best bowler of the tournament at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier — Africa held in Botswana last year.
Zimbabwe won the tournament with a clean record and will represent the region at the global qualifier, as they push for a place at next year’s ICC Women’s T20 World Cup to be held in South Africa.
Then, the Warriors signed off from the AFCON tournament with a 2-1 win over Guinea. It’s unfortunate the team could not grab the opportunities available to them in the opening two matches against Senegal and Malawi. The story could have been different had they done one or two things correctly.
But just being there, and breaking a 16-year jinx by winning against Guinea, showed they can compete against the best on the continent. Zimbabwe had last won a match at the AFCON finals in 2006. ZIFA now need to get their house in order so that results improve in the future.
Good governance is key. Investment in sport can also boost results. The Government and the corporate world can play a big part in this regard.
Zimbabwe’s involvement in many sport codes demonstrates the diversity in talent and the potential that the country holds. But that potential will not amount to anything if it is not supported by proper structures and meaningful funding.