Back after 15 years...and a little less ill

My first visit to Zimbabwe wasn’t the best experience I’ve ever had. I was 12 years old, travelling on my own, and joining my parents in Harare a week after their own arrival because of a school commitment. The only problem was, according to Zimbabwean passport control, I was arriving on my own and the ten rand I had in my pocket wasn’t going to be enough for me to survive on. I was told, there and then, that I would be getting a plane back to Durban and wouldn’t be allowed into the country. Luckily the chap who was waiting to pick me up managed to convince the authorities that I was with him. Some forms were filled in and I was allowed to go.

I remember the trip to Kariba - the largest artificial lake in the world and home to some extraordinary African wildlife. Because Kariba is big, the winds that push across it build swells that can wreak havoc with your constitution. I was so ill I thought I was dying. I lay on the bottom deck, away from everyone, with sea sickness and didn’t see the sunrise – let alone a meandering crocodile or hippo! So the salutary lessons I learnt from that trip were a) I should try and carry more than ten rand in my pocket if I hope to convince anyone that I am able to survive on my own and b) that I am a landlubber.

Almost 15 years on and I’m back to my mother’s homeland. I have a little more in my pocket and what I’m here for involves sticking to dry land and attempting to score a few runs for the Mashonaland Eagles. The Eagles are one of six franchise teams in Zimbabwe’s domestic set- up which is made up of four-day cricket, a 50-over competition and Twenty20. I’m really excited to be here and it is with wonder that I reflect that such a tiny country has produced such an amazing array of sportsmen. Considering some of these illustrious sporting names – cricketers Mike Procter, Graham Hick, the Flower brothers - Andy and Grant- Duncan Fletcher, Paddy Clift, Henry Olonga, Grand slam tennis doubles winners Byron and Wayne Black, Olympic champion swimmer Kirsty Coventry, professional footballers Bruce Grobbelar (Liverpool), Peter Ndlovo (Coventry City), Benjani (Manchester City), rugby international Beast Mtawarira (Natal Sharks and South Africa) and of course three time golf Grand Slam winner Nick Price to name but a few… wow.

There is a measure of awe to be spending time in an environment that has produced such sportsmen and women.

Published 10 November 2010