HARARE – It is an open secret that in sport, fans are the biggest shareholders.
In any case not only do they part with their resources — money and time — whenever they attend matches, they also part with what I view as the most important thing in life, commitment.
It is that commitment that makes sports fans across the globe, travel, fill and pack stadia, all in support of their teams.
That is what commitment brings to sport and those that follow it. Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), once an envy of many in the world has again hit turbulent times.
Since the ‘‘rebel’’ era when the bulk of white players who made the country’s national teams, walked out of the sport in protest over the administration of the country and the sport, the biggest shareholders of the game have done nothing than support the sport.
The period that immediately followed the ‘‘rebel’’ era, was that of downturn, which the fans understandably took in their stride as the country was “undergoing a rebuilding phase” of the sport.
Young schoolboys, predominantly from the high-density suburbs of the country were given a huge and awesome responsibility of representing the national team.
Tatenda Taibu, and Hamilton Masakadza were among the first in the crop of young blood that was thrown at the deep end of the sport.
As years passed on, the likes of former skipper Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Stuart Matsikenyeri and then later on Prosper Utseya came through the ranks.
Why not, it was a “rebuilding phase” and these lads had exhibited serious talent and potential to carry the sport forward.
These changes on the field of play also gave rise to changes in the stands where the owners of the game — the fans — occupy their space during matches.
This coupled by an aggressive drive by the then Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU), to take the sport to the grassroots in search of the next Andy Flower or Heath Streak among previously marginalised communities in the country, saw a growing number of people taking an active interest and liking in the sport.
More and more school children, especially in high-density areas started taking interest in the sport.
This generation, which benefitted from ZCU’s initiative of taking the sport to the people, is now one of the biggest constituents of cricket fans in the country.
They now not only understand the sport, they own it, and it’s theirs.
Harare Sports Club (HSC) and Bulawayo’s Queens Sports Club, our cricket coliseums, now attract thousands of the sport’s enthusiasts whenever our beloved Chevrons go out to play.
Zimbabwe has over the recent years failed to attract big cricket playing nations for matches.
Countries like Australia and New Zealand only recently resumed playing against us.
Zimbabwe, a Test-playing nation, last donned the all-whites in November 2014 against Bangladesh.
The fans have thus, been starved of cricket, the game that they now so love.
Victories have not been forthcoming either for Zimbabwe and the fans, though committed to the cause are increasingly getting agitated with each loss.
We seem to take one step forward and five backwards. With each passing series, our performances do not show any sign of progression whatsoever, save for the few individual brilliant performances that always seem to be forgotten due to lack of consistency on the part of the players.
Who is to blame for the constant poor showing of the national team is the question on everybody’s lips. Is it the administration, the coaches or the players?
Are we still in the “rebuilding phase” nearly 12 years after the white cricketers walked away?
If the players who took over from the whites are still playing today (now with well over 100 matches to their name) don’t we have enough talent?
While other countries like Bangladesh have upped their game and are now well above us, what does it say about our game?
Is there not any development in our game? We have hired and fired coaches of repute, who have tasted glory in other countries, so in all earnest what is wrong with us?
It is these questions that remain unanswered that fans want answered.
The protest by fans at HSC on Monday was never a publicity stunt. It was never about lashing individual players, no. It was never anything personal.
What it was is something that they the fans have been bottling in for so many years now — frustration.
Fans like to have their commitment repaid by noticeable effort on the field of play. That is why fans stick to their teams even when things are bad, they will be acknowledging the effort their players would be putting in even if results don’t go their way.
Surely, with all the singing that goes on at Castle Corner, something that has gained global media acclaim — ZC and the players owe it to the loyal young men and women who sing and dance throughout the entire day every time they come out to play.
Right now they are frustrated and angry, India has already taken the ODI series with one game still to play but I will bet my last dollar, today, HSC will not be empty.
They will turn out and they will be singing and cheering if and only if, the effort on the field of play is well worth it.
It is up to ZC as the administrators to answer those pertinent questions and the coaches as well as players to also answer those questions while they do their thing on the field of play.