ZIMBABWE Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani spoke like a true leader when he addressed the local media on Thursday, in the wake of their re-admittance into the International Cricket Council family.
This wasn’t the time to look into the past, mourn about the opportunities that were lost in the last three months and the damage that was done during their time in isolation.
This was the time to look into the future, to learn from what happened, and ensure they would deliver on a number of fronts.
His media briefing came on the eve of the start of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup men’s qualifier in the United Arab Emirates.
A tournament where the Chevrons were supposed to have been playing in, but would be missing from because of the suspension that had been imposed on Zimbabwe Cricket by the ICC in July.
The shadow of their absence in the UAE, where they were certain to be one of the teams to qualify for next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, was always going to loom large over the media briefing.
But, rather than go into the politics, Mukuhlani chose diplomacy, itself a key weapon that eventually helped heal the divisions and convinced the ICC to restore Zimbabwe Cricket’s status as a Full Member.
He thanked Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry for moving mountains to ensure that his leadership and the Sports Commission board found each other and also her spirited efforts, which culminated in her address to the ICC, to ensure the local game was brought back into the global fold.
He also thanked Sports Commission, led by their chairman Gerald Mlotshwa, for hearing their side of the story, which eventually led to the impasse to be broken, and provide room for a settlement.
He said he understood why Mlotshwa and his team could have cracked the whip, when they suspended their leadership, because the previous Sports Commission board had created a situation which painted this picture that the administration of the domestic game was in a mess.
He made it clear they remain disciples to the regulatory authorities, in this case represented by the Sports Commission, and while their constitution gave them some autonomy, they remain answerable to the regulators.
Mukuhlani also spoke about a future where both the ZC leaders and the Sports Commission can work together to ensure that, ultimately, the sport of cricket thrived in this country.
Checks and balances are important in public offices and, while the storm that hit domestic cricket could have been avoided, he said that vital lessons have been learnt from what had transpired.
And, crucially, he made it clear that if the sanctions had been extended, this could possibly have been the end of the game of cricket, in this country, as we have known it.
“Any further sanctions would have signalled the death of cricket in our country and — at the risk of sounding too emotional — I do not make this statement lightly,’’ Mukuhlani said.
“But, as I address you, I do so with delight. Indeed, I am elated that the ICC has reinstated us, with all our rights as a Full member of the ICC.’’
Someone else would have abused that media briefing to convert it into a forum to gloat about winning, about beating the system, about showing that they were untouchables.
But, to his eternal credit, Mukuhlani was as sober as one could possibly have been, making it clear that a new chapter should be opened and some of the concerns raised by the Sports Commission will have to be addressed.
He said Zimbabwe Cricket needed to change some of the ways they have been doing business so that they win back the confidence of those who have been doubting that the leaders are there to make a difference.
A new chapter, he said, has to be opened and that requires effort from all the leaders to ensure that the focus was on taking the game to a new level and realising the potential that it has across the board.
Cricket has developed to become the country’s second biggest sporting discipline, after football, in terms of mass appeal.
And, with that comes responsibility and expectations, including, but not limited to success whenever the Chevrons or Lady Chevrons take to the field in international contests.
That is why we agree with the ZC boss that this isn’t the time to look into the past, and settle scores, including, but not limited to those players who celebrated when his leadership was suspended, but to bring everyone together in one tent and work for the good of the game.
This is the time to revive this sport, which has immense potential, and that can only be achieved by cool heads, by leaders who put its interests ahead of theirs, and now that we have been given another chance by the ICC, we should not be seen to be wasting it.
We have to justify that we deserve our Full Membership status, and all the benefits that come with it, and good results from the field, are as important as investment into the development structures as well as making sound decisions from the boardroom.
Let’s not waste time in the past, because we can’t change it, but embrace the future.