Cricket might not love Zimbabwe, but the game would be poorer without them

Danyal Rasool

It’s hard not to be moved by the scenes and feelings that followed Zimbabwe’s epic defeat of Pakistan – but don’t forget, they were so close to the brink themselves not long ago.

Imagine liking cricket, and experiencing anything but pure exhilaration at what transpired in Perth last night.

Imagine watching Brad Evans, prone on the ground, his team-mates enveloping him in a suffocating embrace, a scene likely replicated everywhere from Borrowdale to Bulawayo, Mount Pleasant to Mutare, and be too emotionally jaded to feel the delight.

Imagine listening to Pommie Mbangwa calling that final ball, allowing himself to be vulnerable both in his stress and his joy, and failing to grasp the magnitude of what had just happened.

Imagine watching that contingent of Zimbabwean fans, a travelling Castle Corner across Australia, let loose their emotions and not welling up.

Perhaps it was harsh on Pakistan that they ended up being Zimbabwe’s most consequential victims on a global stage in 15 years. Pakistan are, after all, one of few Full Members that continue to fulfil their FTP obligations to Zimbabwe even when there’s little money to be made from those tours. Pakistan play Zimbabwe so often, in fact, that their players’ records have often required those numbers to be filtered out for a more accurate understanding of their abilities.

But if there’s one team that could easily have found itself filtered out of the game altogether, the little landlocked country in southern Africa was a prime contender. Kenya is little more than a cricketing footnote now, and Zimbabwe looked perilously close to following them there till some time ago.

Contrasting emotions: Brad Evans and Regis Chakabva jump for joy while Shaheen Afridi sinks to the ground after being run-out last ball•ICC via Getty Images

They have been to these kinds of dinner parties and annual general meetings much too often not to cotton on to what was happening. There’s a big table where they had a seat in a corner, only for no one to talk to them. Their Full-Member privileges were used to move them around like pawns in voting battles, the carrot of a lucrative series dangled in front of them in exchange for their consent.

The big members ignored them. England last played Zimbabwe in any format anywhere in 2007. Australia have played only one Test in Zimbabwe to date, in 1999. Zimbabwe’s last tour to India was in 2002, and the last Test anywhere between the two was in 2005. When the World Test Championship started, Zimbabwe were relegated to the second tier alongside Afghanistan and Ireland, sides they had preceded in obtaining Test status by a quarter of a century.

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