Do Zimbabwe cricketers need to take matter in their own hands? © AFP
Do Zimbabwe cricketers need to take matter in their own hands? © AFP

Brendon McCullum is a cricketer who will go down in the history as a man who was loved, adored and respected world over for everything he did, on and off the cricket field. He never remained a bloke who played cricket only in whites; instead, he gave respect and place to all formats of cricket and excelled in it. He revived the New Zealand Test side to be one of the best; took the one-day side to a World Cup final, and had a 50-50 record in the unpredictable shortest format. Recently, McCullum delivered the MCC Spirit of Cricket Colin Cowdrey Lecture 2016, which carries important lesson of perseverance and fortitude for the struggling cricket side in Zimbabwe. ALSO READ: Brendon McCullum delivers MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture: Full transcript

In the lecture, McCullum recalled the day when New Zealand were shot out for a mortifying 45 at Cape Town. The former captain explained why he decided to bat against a menacing South African pace attack, and how much he regretted the decision a few minutes into the game. But what transpired that night is something that changed the very face of New Zealand cricket.

McCullum said, “If an innings of 45 all-out doesn’t force you to reconsider what you’re doing, I guess nothing will.  After returning to my room that evening, there was a knock on my door. It was the coach, Mike Hesson. Soon after we were joined by Mike Sandle, the manager, and then Bob Carter, the assistant coach. This uninitiated meeting was to play a significant part in what was to unfold over the next few years.”

“We grabbed beer from the fridge and talked. We didn’t ‘white-board’ it, we just spoke from our hearts; about who we were as a team and how we were perceived by the public. It was agreed that we were seen as arrogant, emotional, distant, up-ourselves and uninterested in our followers.”

“The significance of what occurred that evening day was that we recognised that we had to change. We wanted to personify the traits that we identified in New Zealanders — to be humble and hardworking. We wanted to be respected by our long-suffering fans in New Zealand. We wanted to be respected by our opposition, and before we could demand this we had to learn to respect them,” he added.

Keeping what New Zealand did post that humiliation and the poor run that has groped Zimbabwe strongly, there is a lot that the African team and their new coach, Makhaya Ntini can learn. New Zealand did not decide to have that meeting, they happened to have an honest discussion over a few beers which changed almost everything for them.

A country that gave many rich cricketers can suddenly not run out of resources, and if they find everything pitted against them, it actually calls for resolve from their cricketers. More than from those who run cricket in Zimbabwe, the current situation demands their cricketers to stand up and say, ‘we will never be the same again’, and live up to it.

New Zealand did the same back then, they went back to basics, had their tough sessions in and out of the ground, and achieved success.

For more than one reason, there is no other way to bring life back into cricket in Zimbabwe and West Indies than by achieving feats on the field. Zimbabwe and West Indies have many passionate supporters, but the love for the game does not always translate into on-field success.

Makhaya Ntini, who has been appointed as Zimbabwe’s interim coach has been critical towards second-string teams being sent on tours and South Africa refusing to help. Zimbabwe. Ntini would know there is only up to a certain limit they can expect their opponents to help, and somehow, they will have to create impact in the limited opportunities they get.

The win over Australia in the triangular series last year was a step in the right direction. Zimbabwe needs many more such wins.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)