By Prof. G. Ross Cooper
Zimbabwe Test Cricket, in August 1992, I attended a limited-overs cricket match with my paternal Grandfather, Gordon T. Cooper, hosted at Harare Cricket Grounds during one of my University of Zimbabwe vacations. The match participants were Zimbabwe vs. England and I vividly remember John Traicos, captain since 1987, right-arm spin bowl out a number of skilled batsmen. Suddenly, however, he slipped his guard and an English batsman, short in stature, wacked a David Gower with two 6’s in a row. The packed Castle Corner Stand suddenly went very quiet! Steve White, University of Zimbabwe Physics Chief Technician, was boozed up and repeatedly shouted, “Hooter!”, to a lady helper with an English accent and an enormous frontage. The sunshine reflected off the metal stand frames whilst a gentle breeze blew and the grounds, surrounded by beautiful Jacaranda trees, formed a vivid, rich mix of violet and brown colors. The sunset created a wonderful affair and together with its glorious yellow, orange and red colors lined with purple streaks made the experience exhilarating and deeply satisfying. Zimbabwe won this 1-day cricket match taking 8 wickets, to the thunderous chorus of much whistling, cheering, and roars! The match was indeed full of fun, style, and excellence mixed with admirable skill. Many of the Zimbabwean players were of farming stock and truly of International caliber.
Walking and driving home back down the tree-lined avenues of Harare was a superb experience whilst the nightjars and owls echoed their nightly calls, blended in with the symphony of millions of frogs and crickets. We were magnanimously grateful and proud to be Zimbabweans and loved our country deeply. We had a top cricket team and additionally were number 1 in golf (Nicky Price) and in receipt of numerous Olympic medals. In terms of world recognition, cricket ranked as Zimbabwe’s most successful sport. Surviving the isolation from international competition during the 1965-80 period, it blossomed in stature since Independence in 1980 to reach a place amongst the top 8 cricket competitors in the world after winning the International Cricket Conference (ICC) Trophy. Zimbabwe won the ICC Trophy for a record 2nd time, thus qualifying to compete in the 1987 World Cup! In the 1983 World Cup competition, Zimbabwe was regarded as the best fielding team, and in 1984, Zimbabwe toured Britain and lost only 2 of its 6 1st class matches. In limited-overs competitions, Zimbabwe comprehensively beat West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, New South Wales, English Counties XI, and Kenya. Political interference in the sport from 2000, severely damaged Zimbabwe’s international standing. However, recently in 2021, Zimbabwe beat Ireland to jump into the lead with a score of 1:0. Our Zimbabwean heritage was unique and fulfilling, and must never be forgotten.
Prof. Ross G. Cooper.