IT is not for the first time I am making this remark, unpopular in the corridors of power at Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), that our cricketers have long lost all sense of shame to feel any remorse or pain of defeat.
Here is a bunch that has become immune to all sounds – positive or negative. No passion, no attitude, no fire, no spine.
The pride disappeared from the changing room a long time ago and I hold strong conviction on this one by having been allowed access over the years to two generations of the Zimbabwe team.
In the past, a Zimbabwe dressing room wasn not a pleasant place to be after defeat. If you did something to cost the team in the match, you risked being lynched by your own teammates. You were held accountable first by your colleagues before the media and the fans rubbed it in.
Ask any of the old-timers, they will definitely tell you of a sulky atmosphere behind the scenes in that Zimbabwe changing room of old, whenever things did not go the team’s way. I recall one particular player who had tried to break the post-match tension by fooling around with two teammates, both of whom reacted aggressively they had to be restrained by team management.
I am never one to advocate for physical aggression. In this instance, thankfully, a potentially nasty incident was stopped before it worsened.
But it was demonstration that the team, in those days, felt genuinely pained by bad results, and the players were their own harshest critics.
Can we say the same for this present generation? I am sorry, but the answer for me is a NO. I cannot be persuaded to agree that this crop of players hurt as much as their loyal supporters do. I simply cannot. Any attempts to portray this team in this light is desperation to protect cronies within the set-up.
Lose or win, it is the same with this Zimbabwe team – guys kick around town without a care in the world. It is incredibly disrespectful to the fans, and the supporters are absolutely livid right now that they keep being taken for a ride by these men.
Sure, there is a very small percentage within the team that still do care genuinely about making themselves, their families and their nation proud. It is unfair that they have to take all this flak with the group. But cricket is a team sport, first and foremost, you win and lose together.
It is astonishing how this team has gone back to being mediocre again after the brief revival that followed Dave Houghton’s appointment as head coach mid-last year.
But if you knew this team well, the mentality within the system, some things start to make sense.
You will start to understand why Houghton remarked last year that he hadn’t really done anything special, refusing to take credit when the team was playing well after he took over from Lalchand Rajput. He attributed the amazing turnaround to the players’ “self-belief.”
We drew a logical conclusion in the Press corps back then that Dave was just being modest, typical of him. But, in retrospect, he was right.
What transpired, if you put things together, was that the players got accustomed to losing under Rajput’s tenure. And with no serious competition coming from the fringes, the players felt comfortable and under no real pressure to perform.
Rajput’s sacking then came as a reality check – that things cannot continue as they are. Suddenly the players knew they had to pull up their socks because with the scapegoat of Rajput gone, there was now nobody else to blame but themselves.
Houghton walked into that environment, when the players had all of a sudden rediscovered their “self-belief” when they really needed to.
Now after flattering to deceive and making us believe the worst was over, they have become comfortable again and gone back to a sea of mediocrity that they are so used to and feel content with.
There will not be a World Cup again for Zimbabwe. Uganda are going instead to the T20 showpiece in the West Indies and the United States next year.
The defeat to Uganda in the qualifiers in Namibia last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Uganda, of all the teams, we have all been finding it hard to deal with this reality. But when you have players that have disgraced themselves time after time, and are now immune to it, it is not your birthright to be beating those that are hungry and putting in the work to better themselves. Well done Uganda, and may you keep on rising.
Let’s however not spare the administration in this great shame. The board cannot continue to watch the house burn down, make excuses and blame everybody but itself.
Overtime, as they say, an old broom gets tainted by the dirt it has swept. So the old broom at ZC cannot seriously be expected to be part of the solution going forward.
It is unimaginable that things have come to this, the unthinkable has become a reality. Calls for fresh minds and new ideas must surely be revived to rescue our game from total collapse.