Eddie Chikamhi and Ellina Mhlanga
YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry says she was excited by the potential she saw in the country’s cricket following the performance by Zimbabwe in the recent Test series against Bangladesh.
The swimming icon yesterday visited the Chevrons at Harare Sports Club where she urged the team to continue working hard following their 1-1 series draw against Bangladesh.
Coventry had earlier visited Zimbabwe’s netball Gems who are in camp at Belvedere Technical Teachers College ahead of their trip to South Africa for the Diamond Challenge tournament and watched their training session.
She pledged her ministry’s support to the senior netball team that will be making their maiden appearance at the World Cup next year in Liverpool, England.
The Diamond Challenge is scheduled for November 27 to December 1.
Addressing the players, Coventry applauded them for making it to the global event and wished them the best in their upcoming assignments, with the immediate one being the Diamond Challenge.
The minister was also charmed by the Chevrons’ resurgence.
Zimbabwe had a particularly difficult year, but their Test performance against Bangladesh cheered some spirits back home.
The Chevrons, who had last triumphed on home soil against Pakistan in 2015, won their first away Test match in 17 years when they beat Bangladesh by 151 runs.
They however, lost the second match by 218 runs to level the series.
“I have been very excited to welcome them home. We are so proud they raised our flag extremely high. I am super excited about the future and where they are going; the possibilities.
“To see the reaction from the country when they did so well was also a good sign that we are going to stand side-by-side with them and have faith in them and know that they can go through a bit of a rough patch and still come out on top and I think that’s so exciting and I am super proud of this team for being able to do that and we saw them going from strength to strength.
“I think that’s just the beginning. They just need to stay focused, they need to continue working hard,” said Coventry.
“I don’t know if you guys really understand the excitement and the pride that everybody felt when you won there. I know it’s something that I didn’t quite understand back then when I did well and my parents would call and asked me how I was feeling. I would just say yes I am cool. Not until I came back home to see that it was really incredible.
“What you did, everyone on the radio was talking about it, the newspapers and the new stations it was really good to see you. That’s what you need to keep striving for and you guys are just starting out. It’s exciting to be there and hopefully walking alongside you guys and supporting you.
“Please know that as athletes, I think that’s the first thing that I have told the ZC board and other associations that you guys are my priority and if anything is affecting the players, questions will be asked, pressure will be put on and we got to protect our athletes. I know from experience that you need to come first. My door is always open, Hamilton (Masakadza) has got my number,” said Coventry.
Zimbabwe are set to get the domestic season underway on December 1 with their next international assignment scheduled for March next year when they host India.
ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani said the Chevrons showed positive development in their last outing by winning in Bangladesh, which is a difficult venue for many teams.
He was however concerned by the lack of game time as the Chevrons only returned to Test action in Bangladesh after a 11-month hiatus. He said efforts are underway to find bilateral tours between now and much to help the team active.
Addressing the netball players, Coventry applauded them for making it to the global event and wished them the best in their upcoming assignments, with the immediate one being the Diamond Challenge.
“Well I just wanted to come and see you guys . . . We are just so proud of you guys for qualifying for next year (World Cup), for working as hard as you are right now. You are an inspiration to many young girls.
“So keep up the hard work and we will be there alongside of you to support you and we are very proud of you guys.
“It’s been really a good thing for Zimbabwe. Hopefully you guys have felt the energy and the excitement a little bit from people,” said Coventry.
Zimbabwe will be among 16 countries that will battle for the world title next year after they booked their place to the global showpiece at the joint African
Championships and World Cup qualifiers held in August, in Zambia.
Speaking on the sidelines of her visit, Coventry said they are looking at coming up with long-term solutions to the challenges that have be haunting the sporting fraternity over the years.
Among the major challenges, has been lack of resources and funding.
“So I think there is a whole list of different ideas that we are trying to come up with. I think that’s across the board with some of the federations that we have spoken to, some of the athletes, even the artists.
“It’s not going to be a one size fits all. We are going to have to take a different approach for every situation. But the goal for me is it’s not just coming up with finding a solution now, today. But coming up with a solution that’s going to be long term and it’s going to be sustainable, that I think is more important because our athletes need sustainability.
“A lot of that is going to have to come down to strong strategy planning. It’s going to have to come into having good conversations and working back our trust with the corporate world as sport. I think a lot of corporates have lost a little bit of their faith in our sport for many different reasons.
“And now it’s up to us to work hard to re-engage them and gain that trust back. But I think we can. I know we have the talent in order to do it and now it’s just putting it into practice,” said Coventry.
The Gems have continued to defy the odds and make their presence felt in the sport. Some of their achievements include the African Championships title they won in 2015. “We are aware (of the challenges). We have already had a few meetings already with the president of netball and she has given us a full run down of everything and it’s been incredible. There are so many people from private companies, corporates, people overseas that just want to help and are so proud of the team.
“And so hopefully some of those challenges can be alleviated in the next few weeks to months,” said Coventry.
The team’s vice-captain Rudo Karume said they were elated by the Minster’s visit and is hopeful of positive changes in the future. “We are so happy to have the Minister visiting us. This is the first time we have had a minister coming to see us preparing for the Diamond Challenge besides the fact that next year we are going to the World Cup.
“We are hoping her coming here will bring some positives, things will start to flow and we hope we won’t be facing many challenges like before,” said Karume.