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Hard times: Not just a game for Zimbabwe

cricket Updated: Feb 20, 2011 23:36 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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For the Zimbabweans, this World Cup is not merely the stage to prove themselves. It is also a chance to support their struggling families back home.

Although playing cricket to earn a decent living is possible in the southern African nation these days, what the players get is nothing compared to what their counterparts in leading cricketing nations get. The situation is so tight for some squad members that they have sent home a part of their daily allowance that was paid to them in advance.

Scheduled to play four of their group A matches in India, Zimbabwe are spending 28 days in India, on either side of their trip to Sri Lanka, where they will face the hosts and Pakistan. Each player was given a total of $2800 (Rs 1,26,000 approximately) at the rate of $100 (R4500 approximately) per day.

According to sources close to the team, the players were given the money in Indian rupees. Some of them converted the sum into US dollars and sent a part of the amount to their families in Zimbabwe. The source said the players, deciding to tighten their belts, felt they could do with $50 (R2250 approximately) per day.

Then there is this determination to do something for their countrymen, who had to go through tough times in the last decade because of the economic and political turmoil.
Cricket is the only game in Zimbabwe that unites the blacks and whites; and it is also the only sport where the country takes part in the World Cup.

"I don't have any doubts whatsoever about the role that cricket can play in unifying the country and build bridges between different communities. As popular as soccer is, it doesn't quite have the same ability to bring people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds together in the way that cricket does," former captain Heath Streak, the team's bowling coach, said.

"I'm extremely aware of how our performances affect the mood of the nation, and I'm always reminding the players of that when we are on tour," said Streak. He speaks fluent Ndebele, having grown up in the family farm 40km outside Bulawayo, and is very much "in touch" with the black majority.

Off-spinner Prosper Utseya seemed to pay heed to what Streak had to say. "I would love to perform for the guys back home. We have a lot of important games coming up and we shall try and win some of them."
While others will try to make cricketing points, the Zimbabweans will take the field with bigger responsibilities.