Zimbabwe cricket team’s visit to Pakistan has come like a breath of fresh air for the supporters of Pakistan cricket who have been waiting for the last six years to watch their own players performing on home soil after a ghastly attack on the Sri Lankan team during a Test at Lahore in 2009 deprived the country of all international cricket at home.
Their dream is now finally fulfilled with Zimbabwe graciously agreeing to a PCB invitation to play a brief series of limited overs matches despite security scare which has so far kept the other teams away.
Their visit to Pakistan has no doubt infused in the cricket starved people of Pakistan a spirit which has not only changed their minds and moods but also provided them with the hope that in future the others too would at least make an attempt to take a leaf out of this and follow the path which Elton Chigumbura’s men have set out by coming and playing here.
If the attack on the Sri Lankans in March 2009 was the greatest tragedy in the game’s history, the visit of the Zimbabwean team is unquestionably a positive message to the cricketing world and a stark reminder to the rest that where there is a will there is a way.
For this only the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket Wilson Manase and his team deserves not only admiration and appreciation but also a standing ovation every time they take the field against Pakistan in the remaining two ODIs.
They may be considered to be a lowly ranked team at all level but they certainly have raised their profile by coming to Pakistan and by playing exhilarating cricket so far.
Also, I have no doubt in my mind that their present coach Dave Whatmore has a key role in making the tour possible.
No praise is enough for the attempts and effort made by the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan who in the end succeeded in convincing the visitors to play in the country. In a moment like this we also must not forget the efforts made by former heads of PCB, Zaka Ashraf and lately Najam Sethi, who had been doing the spade work needed for such a visit.
It had been proper if the PCB had also invited the sports loving Commissioner of Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui and a couple of PCB officials from Karachi who had relentlessly worked to greet Zimbabwe for a couple of matches in Karachi. Sadly, though, it did not work out in the end as Zimbabwe preferred to stay at one place and to play all their matches in Lahore.
I must say that Zimbabwe, since becoming the associate members of the ICC in 1981 to 1992 when they were accepted as full member of the ICC and gained their Test status, have had their own share of problems with rebellions, black arm-band protests for death of democracy by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, the first black cricketer to play Test cricket for Zimbabwe who later took asylum in Britain.
That was further compounded by the sacking of Heath Streak, their best bowler ever, as captain which attracted wild protests and defection of players even resulting in one Mark Vermeulen setting on fire the cricket board’s offices at Harare.
The happenings weakened the national team, resulting in their voluntary withdrawal from Test cricket in 2005 for lack of standard. They no more boasted class players such as Murray Goodwin, Grant Flower, Dave Houghton, Andy Blignaut and Eddo Brandes.
However, the present administration has been successful in rehabilitating the whole cricket structure and announce their comeback to Test cricket in 2011.
Initially in their first 30 Tests they had won only one and that too against Pakistan at Harare in 1995, by an innings and 64 run.
Also I remember the day during the Pakistan Test there that year when my Taxi driver took a wrong turn from Harare Sports Club and two of country’s Robert Mugabe’s armed guards held me and the driver for trespassing on a forbidden road which led to the president’s house.
Formerly known as Rhodesia, Zimbabwe is no doubt a fascinating country with Salisbury – which is now Harare – as capital and a vibrant city. Rich in culture, wildlife and possessing such landmarks as the Victoria Fall (wonder of the world) and Lake Victoria, it has a lot to present to the world including their cricket and cricketers which includes Hamilton Masakadza, the first black African to make a Test century, Chigumbura and the rest who no doubt add colour to what they are and what they have achieved.
They have all, no doubt, won the hearts of every Pakistani with their visit and style of play.