March 2008


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Every now and then I watch a bit of cricket. I used to play at school.  And I was a pretty good bowler too.  Oh, you can ask!

I recall one particular match between Gyamfi, (my house at Achimota School) and Livingston House. Livingston was batting and we were fielding. We had managed to take out eight of their 11 batsmen. However, the batting pair of Nii Bonney Andrews (now a neurologist) and one other, kept piling on the runs as our bowlers failed to take them out. I was a reserve bowler. So I asked the team captain, Norkwei Badger (a brilliant architect now) to give me a chance at Livingston’s unyielding pair. Badger was, I must confess, a much better bowler and an all-round sportsman too. Understandably, he resisted my offer. But the ease with which Nii Bonnie et al were breaching the boundaries was starting to be embarrassing. Eventually he handed me the ball to try an over.

My first effort was heading straight for the wicket and the batsman had to treat it with a cautious classic block — what we called classico.  My second ball, believe it or not, ripped out a stump and the batsman was out!

On came Livingston’s last batsman. My next ball spun like a frisbee. The batsman failed to connect. It rammed into the wicket sending the bails flying like kites! He was out, and we won. Oh, it’s true! Ask.

But I digress. I’ve been dying to tell this story to a larger audience than my wife and two kids. Now that I’ve got my boastful prologue out of the way, shall we return to the main point of the discourse?

I had been following the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies late last year. And I was rather shocked to hear that the Zimbabwean cricket officials had asked the black members of the team, who wore dreadlocks, to get rid of their locks because they wanted uniformity in hairstyle and general appearance.

Bollocks! Didn’t the team outfit deliver enough uniformity? What’s hairstyle got to do with leg-spinning or good wicket-keeping? These were sportsmen, for heaven’s sake, not High Street CEOs or meekly parsons and catechists!

In any case, Caucasian hair and the nappy curls of black people can simply not look, let alone be, the same unless they wanted the black players to straighten their hair with dollops of perming cream! The black boys were going to insist on their bohemian coif and resist making a beeline to some uppity salon, I was certain. After all, this was the Caribbean, mon. Dis was dreadlock country! Yea, mon!

I was wrong. Wrong like two left shoes. The response of the black Zim boys was: “We’ve agreed to cut our dreadlocks. We have to look decent; cricket is a gentleman’s game.” The guys didn’t put up a fight. They chopped off their dreadlocks in Jamaica of all places! I mean, did these guys see the movie “Cool running?”

For me, this raises a political question. Are Zimbabweans too acquiescent? Why are they putting up with 80 per cent unemployment, 100,000 per cent inflation, a month-old presidential election with no results under an 84-year-old President who is nearly 30 years in power? When the opposition ask people to stay home, they turn up for work even in presumed opposition strongholds. Would this happen in West Africa?

Liberians got rid of Samuel Doe, and then Charles Taylor. Obasanjo’s own party rejected his third term bid outright, and his Vice-President all but had a punch with him.

Northern Ivorians fought against marginalisation. Last year, the military in Guinea killed scores but the protesters kept surging forward until President Conte buckled. Ghanaians were first to throw out the Brits and seven years ago took a chance with the opposition.

At Gyamfi House, we learnt, even as pubescent lads to risk our reserve bowler against Livingston’s best batsmen. You gain nothing if you risk nothing.

So are Zimbabweans top risk-averse? Or is Robert Mugabe that great?

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