By Enock Muchinjo
Zimbabwean cricket was soaring from the mid-1990s up to some two years into the new millennium.
The national side had famously whitewashed England 3-0 in 1996-97 in a home series that heralded a peak for Zimbabwe, and sent the vanquished English into serious soul-searching.
Perhaps the finest moment of that golden era — which I had the greatest privilege of witnessing as a uniform-clad schoolboy — was defeating India in the lone Test in the summer of 1998.
To a lot of people, Zimbabwe announced its arrival as an international team of repute in that Test, humbling an Indian side with all the big guns: Tendulkar, Srinath, Azharuddin, Dravid, Kumble, Ganguly, Agarkar.
It is unbelievable what this kind of feat does to your confidence.
Tails high and believing they really now belonged to the big stage, Alistair Campbell and his merry band of men arrived in Pakistan a month later and reached yet another milestone, beating the hosts to record the African side’s first-ever away Test series win.
By the time of the 1999 World Cup in England, Zimbabwe would dare any international side in its pomp, and fancy their chances. India and South Africa were famously floored in that tournament, another sign of good health for cricket in Zimbabwe.
And when Zimbabwe drew the single Test match in New Zealand in 2000-01 and bagged the ODI series 2-1 — then drawing a home two-match Test series with India in 2001 — world cricket was witnessing the rise of a nation that, at the rate it was going, could soon knock the best international sides off their perch.
But that would never be the case. All broke loose around 2003-04 when total madness, greed, massive plunder, incompetence — you name it — combined forces to downgrade Zimbabwean cricket to its current lowly status.
As you read this piece, Zimbabwe is today desperate to avoid a series defeat to Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Back in the days, before the bubble burst, Kwekwe Sports Club would roar over the Afghans.
Now they scare the hell out of us, and going by recent results over Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and West Indies should start as favourites to claim the two qualification spots for next year’s World Cup.
Failing to qualify will be a disaster of enormous proportions for Zimbabwe, who have been to every World Cup since 1983.
It will multiply the great anguish of Zimbabwean cricket fans, and mark a new low for the game in this country.