21st February Movement is the birthday of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe (Excuse me if I don’t complete the full title, it doesn’t take away the respect I accord to any elder). And in acknowledging this milestone I would like to take a highlights package of his long innings at the crease. Coincidently he just happens to be the Patron of Zimbabwe cricket and in the spirit of the cricket world cup currently in progress we take a look at how he constructed his innings until he has now entered the nervous nineties. I think it is fitting he reaches his tonne, and raised his bat in salute. I want to be there to witness such a momentous achievement. He opened the batting and has carried his bat through out the decades.
In the first session batting was very easy, with bowlers literally sending down slow full tosses, begging to be hit. He was playing exquisite text book shots. Everyone was applauding as he settled into his rhythm and got his eye in. He was very good at rotating the strike always taking a single off the last ball of the over. Those who had sledged him before he made his international debut, he forgave. This was the true spirit of cricket, the gentleman’s game. It was during this stage that he received one of the highest honours bestowed on a sportsman. Like Viv Richards, one of the greatest batsmen of all time who was knighted by the Queen for his batting prowess, The President also received his knighthood for his batsmenship.
Dealing with the ECB
The President regularly went to the UK where he played in the county circuit. And on his many trips there he entered into a contract with the ECB. The ECB through one of the many talent scouts they sent to Africa, stole bats belonging to the local cricketers, leaving them with very inferior bats that could not be used at all. The contract stated that those who stole bats and owned more than three bats would willingly sell back two of their bats and the ECB would pay for those bats. After a while leadership at the ECB changed, the new leader decided to nullify the contract and said they were not paying for any bats!
At this point in his innings he realised he had entered into the power play overs and he called for a bigger, thicker, heavier, bat. The once easy going player was now sledging all the fast bowlers who were bowling at him. The ECB cancelled his players VISA and county contracts. The run rate had definitely decreased, and as captain he decided to collect all the bats in the country and distributed them to his team members and other cricketers as well. At each post match press conference he would have a go at captains of the opposite teams.
A black player sledging the white players
This new approach to batting, never before seen in Afrika – a black player sledging the white players – won him affection by cricket lovers across Afrika. Other batsmen from the region secretly admired the way he stood up to fast bowlers and sledged them back. They threw everything at him, but The President was not fazed, he would hit them back over the bowlers head for six! He played some audacious shots that left the the bowlers and fielders mesmerised. With all the bats firmly in his possession the, ECB with the help of ICC wanted to make sure that cricket was not developed in Zimbabwe so they cut supplies of cricket balls to Zimbabwe, they stopped others from coming to play cricket with Zimbabwe.
Run rate decreases
In all this the run rate continued to dip. It started to affect the net run rate, no fours or sixes were being hit. Maiden after maiden was being bowled. That is when the IPL was introduced and The President decided to look east and tap into the IPL dollars. All the cricket that was available for Zimbabwe was 20/20. A shortened and inferior version of the game. Batting had become increasingly difficult for the President and in a lapse of concentration he was given out!
Finally given out, but reviewed…
Though he was given out by the umpires, he stood his ground. With the introduction of DRS it was first used in 2008 after a review by the opposition. At this point many had expected him to walk because it was caught in the slips, even his own team mates were sure he was out this time, but they decided to review the decision anyway since they still had reviews available. Much to the ire of the opposite team and some of his own team mates who also wanted to bat, the decision was overturned and he had another life. To this day within Zimbabwe’s cricketing circles, that decision is still a contentious dinner table discussion.
It was also during this session of his innings That the President for once in his life was provided with a runner, though initially he insisted that he could go it alone, a runner was provided. With the help of a runner the run rate was able to be increased to a healthy position.
The dreaded Ducksworth Lewis had to be employed in 2013. I still don’t understand this law and how it works, but at a time when The President’s innings was supposed to have come to an end, he came out all guns blazing and the verdict was that an additional 50 runs had been added to the score via Ducksworth Lewis? We are still puzzled as to how it was calculated.
The nervous nineties
After such a long and grinding innings its only natural that the opposite team become demoralised after trying every tactic to get the batsmen out, leading to sledging, and appealing at every turn. Team members also pleaded with the batsmen to retire when he has clearly scored enough runs and in the interests of the team and give others a chance to bat. But each player also has their own personal goals, milestones to reach and records to break and who retires in the nervous nineties anyway? Most people want to reach their century and then retire.
Batsmen, slip and fall all the time, and I am glad none of the designers I know joined in making posters of the batsmen slipping and falling. And for those who think that the people of Zimbabwe will throng the streets in celebration when The President’s innings finally comes to an end? You’ve got that mistaken. And if people do run out and celebrate on the streets then it just confirms that we, Zimbabweans are the cowards that we have been labelled as. So lets sit back and watch the innings.
I hope our batsmen at the world cup take a leaf from the example set by this batsmen, who has faced all kinds of deliveries on various types of pitches and has still come out unscathed, he is still at the crease.
I don’t celebrate his birthday, why? Because I don’t know him personally, we are not close like that. The same way I never celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday or any other celebrity for that matter. But I do acknowledge it and wish him well on this milestone. Its truly a blessing to live this long. It would be nice if on his birthdays he would randomly select twenty regular citizens who he would listen to for an hour or so, to allow them to express themselves about the state of the country he leads and their desires.
With that I say Happy Birthday President Robert Gaberial Mugabe, the Patron of Zimbabwe Cricket.