Heath Streak: The only Zimbabwean with 100 Test wickets

Heath Streak played 65 Tests and 189 ODIs, picking up 216 and 239 wickets respectively. He was extremely handy with the bat, scoring 2943 ODI runs at an average of 28.29 with 13 half-centuries © Getty Images

Born on March 16, 1974, Heath Hilton Streak proved to be one of Zimbabwe’s best players during the team’s golden era in the ’90s when the team was a lot more competitive than they are today. With tons of stamina and impeccable control over his outswingers, Streak was a lot like South Africa’s Shaun Pollock. Prakash Govindasreenivasan takes a peek into the career of the only Zimbabwean to pick 100-plus wickets in Tests.

Heath Streak was a complete package. While he was not bowling long spells of immaculate line and length, one could see him throw himself around in the outfield and force some of the most amazing throws.

With the bat, he was more than just useful. He loved the idea of coming out and throwing his bat at almost everything and add some crucial runs down the order in both — One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and Tests.

Yet, Heath Streak the bowler was the most crucial to Zimbabwe. He was a calm, stolid operator and more often than not, he was crucial to Zimbabwe’s performance as a team.

Streak, born in Bulawayo, made his Test debut in 1993 at the age of 19. He went on to play 65 Tests and 189 ODIs, picking up 216 and 239 wickets respectively. With the bat, he was extremely handy for 2943 ODI runs at an average of 28.29 with 13 half-centuries.

Streak often displayed his prowess as a one-man attack. His efforts were worthy of more credit than due because of his ability to carry a rather ordinary bowling attack on his broad shoulders. His best efforts often came in lost causes, but his ability to fight on individually is worth a mention.

He came up with figures of six for 87 in a game where Zimbabwe suffered an innings defeat against England at Lord’s in 2000. He bettered this with six for 73 against India at Harare, but could not avoid the inevitable defeat as India registered a 10-wicket victory.

Streak’s best outing with the bat came in an ODI in 2001. He helped Zimbabwe pull off an unexpected victory over New Zealand in Auckland. Chasing 274, Zimbabwe did not have the best start with the bat and were on the verge of losing the game before Streak walked in to turn the match around. Streak and Travis Friend added 69 runs for the 8th wicket to keep Zimbabwe in the chase. A 19-run partnership with Brian Murphy for the last wicket helped Streak take Zimbabwe past the Kiwi total.

Captaincy and controversy

Streak was handed captaincy in 2000 but his form took a beating. He failed to cope with the pressure of captaincy and tensions with the board over racial quota and eventually gave it up soon.

In 2002, he was reappointed as captain but the turmoil within Zimbabwe cricket continued and had an adverse effect on his captaincy. He was further weakened by the protests by Henry Olonga and Andy Flower following the racial discrimination carried out during selections. As the internal problems grew, Streak failed to take firm political stand. As the board did not guarantee him a role in the selection process, he quit in 2004.

He resolved his issues with the board and was brought back into the side in 2005 when the team was struggling to earn a favourable result. He retired from international cricket in the same year and was appointed as captain of Warwickshire.

Any subsequent return to the national team was quashed when he signed up for the Indian Cricket League in 2007 and represented Ahmedabad Rockets for two seasons before returning to his country to become the national coach.

Streak was the first cricketer from Zimbabwe to pick 100 Test wickets and earned immense love and respect from his peers. Having played in the era when Zimbabwe had the ability to stun opponents of different sizes, Streak will go down as one of the best to have represented the African nation.