EDITORIAL COMMENT: Cricket teams must heed President’s call to uphold high moral ethics

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

CRICKET is widely known as the gentlemen’s game because of the dignity, fair play, integrity and honour largely associated with the sport.

While great rivalry exists in the game, the mutual respect players in opposing teams have for one another and the friendly atmosphere in which it’s played makes cricket appear like a gentlemen’s game. After all, it’s the only sport in the world where players break for lunch, tea and drinks, making it a favourite family outing for many.

Cricket is hardly associated with hooliganism that blights many a football and rugby game, but over the years, ugly incidents of corruption in the form of match fixing have contaminated that gentlemen’s aspect of the game.

The proliferation of powerful betting syndicates and bookmakers has eaten into the honesty and integrity that was once associated with cricket, as the dark underworld of this billion dollar industry determines which team wins.

Unfortunately, due to the lure of the dirty dollar, some players and officials, including some very senior and influential ones, have fallen prey to these unscrupulous syndicates and participated in match manipulation for a quick buck. Because it’s difficult to tell whether a player or umpire is deliberately throwing a game, it’s sometimes just left to the imagination of fans and officials if there was fair play or not following some weird outcomes.

Zimbabwe plays host to the 2019 International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup Qualifier from March 4-25 featuring 10 teams fighting for two places to complete the World Cup proper in England next year.

The other nine teams, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates, West Indies, Nepal and Netherlands have all arrived in the country to join Zimbabwe in their quest to secure the two available slots for England 2019.

This makes the three-week qualifier a fiercely contested event and obviously of interest to bookmakers and betting syndicates. The ICC has put in place anti-match manipulation mechanisms, but the betting underworld always seems to have willing participants.

While we welcome all visiting teams to our country, we bid them to take heed of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advice to shun corruption in all its forms and to uphold high moral ethics, honesty and integrity throughout the duration of this qualifier.

Each team and player must help return the gentlemen’s tag to the game by embracing high moral ethics, honesty and integrity in victory or defeat. As President Mnangagwa stated at a banquet hosted for the visiting teams in Harare on Sunday night, match-fixing, bribery, cheating and pre-determination of results should play no part in this qualifier.

Only the two finalists should earn the right to join the elite top eight ICC one-day international ranked sides in the 2019 Cricket World Cup without money changing hands among players, umpires or teams’ management. The two sides must win fairly.

We also hope this tournament will create euphoria in our country as happened when Zimbabwe punched above their weight to qualify for the Super Six stage of the 1999 Cricket World Cup, with victories over the mighty India and South Africa. Zimbabwe progressed to the Super Six at the expense of hosts England and how pleasant it would be for our team to return to England 20 years later and perform similar heroics following years of turmoil that has seen our boys capitulating to embarrassing defeats in over 90 percent of matches they have been involved in this decade.

Although our current players have been struggling to perform at a fraction of the team of 1999, we wish the boys all the luck and urge them to represent our country with pride and honour. We hope this qualifier will revive the fortunes of cricket in our country and see young­sters again playing the game in the dusty streets of the sub­urbs just like in 1999.