14 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
BUNDU BOY, BOWLER, BATTER TRYING TIMES . . . Former Zimbabwe captain and coach, Heath Streak, is now serving a ban imposed by the International Cricket Council for violating their anti-corruption codes. − AP.


Firdose Moonda

HEATH STREAK had never heard a silence so loud.

It was March 2018 and Zimbabwe had failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

Missing out was a matter of both pride and money. It would be the first time in Zimbabwe’s history that they would not be at the tournament. It doesn’t matter that they have never been expected to win; World Cups are a rare chance for them to test themselves against the best – and occasionally to beat them.

It is also one of the few opportunities to add to Zimbabwe Cricket’s bank balance, which otherwise runs close to empty in a flailing economy. For the World Cup, the participation fee was US$100 000 and for every match won, teams earned an extra $40 000.

Zimbabwe could have lost every match they played and still returned home with enough money to, for example, pay the salaries of the coaching staff for a year.

Streak, who was head coach at the time, and his support staff, voluntarily gave up their salaries for more than a year leading into the qualifiers, in an attempt to mitigate against pay cuts for players.

They figured that if the cricketers were not worrying entirely about money – there was still some concern because they were on reduced pay – they would be able to fully focus on their performance.

If that happened, Zimbabwe would give themselves the best chance of qualifying, and if that happened, everyone would eventually get back what was owed to them.

The incentive to get there was strong.

In reality, it backfired badly, Zimbabwe lost to the United Arab Emirates in the decisive match and were out of the World Cup.

A week later, Streak and his entire staff were sacked, in what he claimed were unfair dismissals. Three years later, he would be banned for eight years after admitting to accepting two bitcoins worth US$70 000 and an iPhone from a man the ICC recognised as a corruptor, and multiple breaches of the ICC’s anti-corruption code.

Streak said he had provided information on, among other tournaments, the 2018 Afghanistan Premier League, which took place six months after the World Cup qualifiers.

By then, he was without permanent employment, still unpaid by his former employers and embroiled in legal proceedings against them.

l How did it come to this?

Had it been building from back in 2004, when he stepped down as captain of Zimbabwe and walked out amid a transformation storm, only to return a year later?

Or were the roots laid a decade later, when Streak was overlooked in succeeding Alan Butcher as the men’s head coach, despite a successful tenure under Butcher as bowling coach?

Was it because he was then compelled to take temporary posts and start an academy in Bulawayo, rather than, as many of his contemporaries had done, look for more permanent employment abroad?

And, most complicatedly, did it get to this point because of his devotion to the land of his birth and the soil of his soul?

Streak is fluent in Ndebele.

That may not seem like a remarkable thing to say about a Zimbabwean, even a white Zimbabwean, but it is. Unlike so many former Zimbabwe players, Streak never left. Streak says he made a mistake and puts it down to naivete.

“I was overly trusting. There’s a lot of things that you might say to your wife or your dad, and if they were a gambling people, they could do some of those things.

“I should have been a lot more conscientious (about) what we are privy to, and that we have information that can be used.

“This is the sad reality of professional sport. People gamble on sport and it’s big business. Everyone is trying to get any edge they can.”

“A lot of people understand that I was abused by someone who had taken advantage of me. But, there are people who I thought would reach out, even to express disappointment, who haven’t. So this has shown me who my true friends are.

“It’s been character-building and enlightening. I can’t think of anyone who has said to me directly that I am an I***t.”

Streak’s paternal great-grandfather, originally from England, bought land in the Turk Mine area, 60 kilometres north of Bulawayo, in 1896.

Over four generations, the Streaks’ have farmed cattle and founded a safari company, with zebras, wildebeest, kudu and giraffes roaming their terrain.

Each time he could have walked away, he came back. If he was a mediocre player, you might say he had no other option.

l Is Streak done with Zimbabwe?

We don’t have to ask anyone but history for the answer to that. There’s a saying on the continent that you can take a person out of Africa, but you can’t take Africa out of a person. There are few people who exemplify that more than Streak.

It’s clear in any conversation with him how much he loves Zimbabwe, the endless blue skies of a city like Bulawayo, or the deep silence of the African bush – even if he fears it’s that silence he will hear a lot more in the future. – The Cricket Monthly.


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