WHEN news broke out this week confirming that the Government had granted Chevrons the nod to tour Pakistan next month, it made headlines across the world.
The senior cricket side are set to become the first Zimbabwean national sports team to be allowed to embark on an international tour since sport was halted countrywide as part of measures to curb Covid-19.
Although we have seen international sport, making a comeback, national team assignments have been limited as the globe monitors tricky issues related to coronavirus.
Only England, so far, have been able to host matches involving national cricket teams, with the West Indies men’s side, the first to fly there before Pakistan followed suit.
The Windies national women’s side are also in England on a cricket tour.
There have been signs that international sport was returning, though in a measured way, with UEFA Europa League matches being played in Europe recently.
Copa Libertadores matches, which are the top inter-club football games in South America, have also started and the same version of a tournament in Asia is well and truly underway.
However, there is a difference between football and cricket.
While it’s possible, in football, for visiting teams to fly in, even on match days, and then leave just after the game, this is not possible when it comes to cricket.
For instance, a Test match lasts, at most, five days while limited overs matches, the ODIs and the T20Is, can use the better part of a day.
This means, in today’s world where Covid-19 remains a sensitive issue amid a global battle to try and contain this pandemic, a cricket tour, given the length of time involved, requires more effort and attention from authorities.
The Chevrons tour of Pakistan, for example, is set to run from October 30 to November 10 and the Zimbabwean party has to arrive well before their first match and get into a bio-secure bubble to comply with health requirements prescribed by the hosts.
The Government, clearly, has been monitoring the situation in Pakistan and believes it will be safe for the Chevrons to play there without compromising the health of our players and officials.
Pakistan are in a best position, of all countries outside the British Isles, to provide a safe environment for a cricket contest to be played between two international sides.
The Pakistan Cricket Board picked a lot of lessons on how to effectively run a bio-secure bubble from their tour of England and have made it clear there won’t be any compromises to the safety of their players and visitors.
The world will also be watching, and that is why the statement by Zimbabwean authorities that they had given the Chevrons the green light to proceed with the tour, attracted headlines across the globe.
Everyone connected with cricket wants this to work out so that it can provide an example for other countries that are trying to organise such tours for them to deal with delicate issues related to having a series in the era of Covid-19.
For us, given there are points on offer, which have a bearing in qualifying for the next ICC Cricket World Cup, it was always important that we find ways to go and play the series.
That is why we agree with Zimbabwe Cricket chairman, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, that this is not just about visiting Pakistan and playing cricket again for the Chevrons, but this is a mission for us to show the world, which will be watching closely, that we can compete at this level.
There is no doubt that the hosts are a more powerful side than us, but the beauty of sport is that it always gives a chance for the so-called Davids to take on, and at times, defeat the Goliaths.
Even, if we lose, we have to be seen to have given our best shot, playing with pride and courage, and representing our country with distinction.
That’s all the fans ask from those who represent them, whether be it cricket, football, rugby, tennis or boxing — go and give it everything that you have and remember you are flying our flag.
There are others who feel there are serious security concerns in Pakistan for us to be sending our national cricket team.
The reality is that the Asian nation have been moving mountains in the past decade to ensure the safety and security of visiting athletes was not compromised.
This is not the first time we have gone to Pakistan for a cricket duel.
When the whole cricket world was doubting, five years ago, we became the first full member of the ICC to tour the Asian nation in a tour that laid the foundation for the visits we have seen from other countries.
“The confirmation of the series schedule against Zimbabwe, after having successfully hosted Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, as well as Marylebone Cricket Club and HBL Pakistan Super League V, in the 2019-20 season, not only strengthens Pakistan’s reputation as a safe, and secure country, but is also a healthy one after having successfully overcome the Covid-19 pandemic,’’ Pakistan Cricket Board director of International Cricket, Zakir Khan, told the PCB website this week.
“This series is critical to Pakistan as it aspires to qualify directly for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 and, as such, every point in the Super League will count.’’ This is more than just a cricket series, this is about two brotherly countries coming together, again, to celebrate their special relationship through sport.