TWO years ago, it was all doom and gloom for the Lady Chevrons, who faced an uncertain future, having been barred by the International Cricket Council from taking part in the 2019 ICC Women World T20 Qualifier.
The country’s senior women cricket side paid a huge price, after Zimbabwe Cricket were suspended by the ICC in the wake of the suspension of the leadership of the domestic game by the Sports Commission.
Having qualified for the ICC Women World T20 Qualifier, which was held in Scotland after thrashing Namibia by 50 runs in the final, the Lady Chevrons watched in horror as the toxicity of boardroom politics cost them a golden opportunity to play against the best.
“Namibia will compete in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019, replacing Zimbabwe which has been suspended by the ICC,’’ the ICC said in a statement.
“Namibia step into the frame by virtue of their finishing spot in the Africa regional pathway having lost the final of the women’s African Qualifier to Zimbabwe. This maintains the balance of regional representation in the global qualifying events.’’
Then, as if that was not enough, four team members of the Lady Chevrons, and their coach, were barred from being part of the ICC Women’s Global Development Squad in England.
Those who were slapped with the sanctions were the spine of the Lady Chevrons, led by their inspirational captain Mary-Anne Musonda and three of her teammates — Sharne Mayers, Anesu Mushangwe and Tasmeen Granger.
Ironically, Granger, the all-rounder, had given up a coaching job in New Zealand and returned home to pursue her dreams of qualifying for the World Cup, only to run into this storm of chaos and heartbreak.
A beacon of inspiration, in local women’s cricket, Granger broke barriers when she became the first Zimbabwe female cricketer to ply her trade abroad, when she took part in the Atlanta Women’s Cricket Tournament for two successive years, before landing a coaching job in Christchurch in New Zealand.
Now, after returning home to serve national, rather than personal interests, Granger found herself in the eye of a storm, as the Lady Chevrons were caught up in the politics of the day, and missed grand opportunities.
Their coach, Adam Chifo, was also barred from travelling to England.
He had been set to accompany the cricketers to help him gain vital experience, to prepare his team for the 2019 ICC Women World Twenty20 Qualifier in Scotland, where they could battle for a place at the global showcase.
Their captain, Musonda, probably spoke on behalf of every woman cricketer in the country, when she expressed her anger, in a tweet, pregnant with emotion.
“I’m gutted,’’ she tweeted. “This is wrong and unjust. We can’t be the team that almost made it. No! Do the right thing. We are bleeding to death. You are watching.’’
There were genuine fears that women’s cricket in this country, which was growing steadily and had just produced a national team which could beat virtually the other African countries, except South Africa, would collapse.
Many of the players were simply fed up with the dark arts of politics, which were squeezing life out of them, and they were on the brink of walking away from the game.
Such a scenario would have been a massive loss for the game, in this country, given the huge financial investment, which has been poured into its structures, to come up with a sporting code, which now provides a decent national team.
But, to their eternal credit, the Lady Chevrons decided to stick around, choosing to ride the storm in the hope that it would pass, as quickly as it had hit, and they would soon be allowed to do what they know best.
And, on Sunday, their commitment to their game, in particular, and their country, in general, was rewarded when they won the Africa Qualifier for the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
As fate would have it, they faced Namibia in the final, the very team which had been chosen to replace them when they were thrown out two years ago, and powered to a 13-run victory.
It was the culmination of a campaign in which the Lady Chevrons were flawless, and clearly the dominant team, at the qualifier, in which their pedigree clearly showed, with each passing game.
There were a number of heroines, in their side, with opening batter, Chiedza Dhururu, producing a Player of the Match show, in the final, with her match-winning knock of 44 runs.
Modester Mupachikwa was their leading run scorer, during the tournament, while Nomvelo Sibanda kept asking questions, with the ball, including getting two big early wickets, in the final.
Every Zimbabwean bowler took a wicket in the final, showing their all-round class, with Josephine Nkomo and Precious Marange also finishing with two scalps each.
They have given themselves a chance to go and fight for one of the two places, at the global qualifier, for a place at the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, set for South Africa.
Given where they were, just two years ago, this has been a remarkable turnaround for the Lady Chevrons.
They have shown that nothing is impossible, as long as people commit to a cause, and all the hurdles, which are occasionally thrown in our way, are there to be cleared.
We have always derived a lot of pride in being a nation of fighters, which never give up, no matter the circumstances.
The Lady Chevrons showed it in Botswana and, in a way, they provided a lesson, for both the Mighty Warriors and the Warriors, that the true national representatives never throw in the towel.