I don’t like politics mingling with sports. But in many countries(especially developing ones) this is common.
Apparently, in Sri Lanka the sports minister gets involved in team selection. If you’re a cricketer playing in the national team, this must be really frustrating. Sangakkara probably felt like speaking out at some point and did so in his carefully worded Cowdry lecture. Hats off to him!
Flower & Olonga
But what Andy Flower and Henry Olonga did back in 2003 with the black band was a bit unnecessary, I think. They were protesting against the ‘death of democracy’ in their country. Yes, Mugabe and his cronies were interfering into cricket but rather than speaking against the interferences, these guys were protesting against his government as a whole in an international cricket match. I still can’t see how it changed/would have changed things. Henry is a nice guy, he’s building his career as a singer in London and he himself is amazed at what he did in the world cup, more than 8 years ago. As for Andy he’s one of England’s most successful coaches. These guys stole the limelight then. But, there were other players whose lives were changed by Henry’s & Andy’s actions.
What followed next was an exodus of senior players and almost the entire team ‘resigned’. But Heath Streak, the then Zim captain didn’t resign (according to him), but was axed. His interview to The Observer is an amazing one, well worth a read.
Unlike other players, he didn’t leave Zimbabwe permanently, he rather helped cricketers in his country. He did his best to stay clear from politics. in 2009, he became the national bowling coach. And with hind sight, his calm and carefully considered decisions seem to have benefited Zimbabwe a lot more.
An extract from his interview speaks for itself.
“Sadly politicians want to make mileage out of sport. As cricketers we wanted to make people in Zimbabwe happy and give them something to be patriotic about again.
I’ll never leave Zimbabwe by choice as Graeme Hick and others have done. I’d like my children to grow up here. I grew up on a farm near Bulawayo and remember waking up every morning and going into the bush to play with my young African friends on the farm. I was lucky that I learnt English and Ndebele pretty much simultaneously. I grew up in a very multiracial era compared to that of my parents. At senior school I didn’t think twice about inviting black friends for a weekend at my parents’ ranch. This would have been unheard of in Mum and Dad’s era.
Can a white person live in Africa? I think that depends on how you are as a person. There is still much bitterness about the colonial past. Too many of the colonisers were very arrogant: they didn’t respect local cultures and didn’t bother to learn local languages. But the majority now are a lot more aware of other people’s cultures and are prepared to learn the differences between the two.
It’s sad what has happened to the game because cricket was a shining example of how black and white people could get on together.” (The Observer)
Note: Zimbabwe is playing much better cricket than they did 8 years ago. They beat Bangladesh comprehensively in the last test match, the first in many years. They’ve now beaten them in an ODI series too. And last year they beat Sri Lanka and India in the ODI games. So, people like Heath Streak who stayed calm and worked for the country they loved, did make a positive difference.