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Interview with Peter Chingoka representative in Zambia, Hemant Sharma got an opportunity to have a chat with Peter Chingoka, the man who is quoted to change the face of cricket in Africa, during the World Cup Qualifying series in Lusaka.

Peter Chingoka is the Chairman of Africa Cricket Association and Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Following is the interview :

Peter ChingokaWe are pleased to see the extent of the work done for the development of the game in this part of the world. It really was an eye opener for us to see the growth of the game in the African continent. We would like to congratulate you for your efforts but we would like to know how hard it was to achieve all of this ?

Firstly I’d like to Thank your web site for acknowledging the work done by the Africa Cricket Association and having full web-based coverage of the 2004 WCQS tournament. We have been working very hard to take the game of cricket to the local masses of Africa for some time now and we have grown a considerable amount. The challenges we face are daunting. In order to make cricket popular we have to overcome the hugely popular game of soccer which is not an easy task. Secondly cricket is an expensive sport unlike soccer so for a newcomer to the sport, the high expenses are a big deterrent. But we are trying our best to supply cricket goods, equipment and most importantly – cricketing knowledge to the remotest corners of Africa to generate more interest in the game.

Cricket has had a long history in Africa but it never grew into a major sport except in South Africa maybe. What challenges are faced by you to make the game popular even in the majority of the African population ?

Earlier whenever “cricket” was mentioned, it was seen as a white-man’s game and for the majority of the population of Africa, it was a restricted sport. We are trying to change that mind set now. In the cricketing world we have seen that the game is a World-Sport and the boundaries of colour have diminished. Its not the game of just England anymore. We want the people of Africa to play the sport and develop it. So not only we face a tough task in bringing the game to them, we also have to change their mind set. When we talk about taking the game to the communities, we have to know that the local people need more impetus than the privileged kids. The white people who traditionally were the only cricket players have a family support system in which the whole family would come in support of their kids playing cricket. That does not happen with the local majority of the Africans as the elders do not know about cricket at all due to how things were in the past. So when we tackle the development of the game here, its more than just giving support and organization to the people, we also have to almost feed a new way of thinking and belief. And as you mentioned about South Africa, I think they still need a lot of work to do to really blur the boundaries of colour.

Talking of development, the health of cricket in the 2nd test playing nation Zimbabwe is in a dodgy state. And you being the Chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) have been in the center of all the controversies. What is the latest on that?

Well first of all , its not at all ” Dodgy”. We are on the right track in the best interest of the game of cricket. We have taken the right steps keeping in mind the best practices. We certainly have gone back a few years in development due to the recent happenings but one way or the other, this had to happen. Someone had to take a brave decision and put things into the right places and we felt that the time had come to sort things out for good. Everything comes for a price and to achieve what is ideal for our people and our nations we are ready to sacrifice whatever we have to keeping our belief in our ideals.

Looking at how things have turned out from a worldly perspective, when the already established players dropped out in unison against the new steps of the authorities, it looked like that the ZCU has a racist policy and it was apparent to the world that you give precedence to ‘politics of cricket’ over ‘quality of cricket’. How do u justify yourself against this view of the world ?

Yes I know that not many share our point of views in the world, but the reason for that is not due to a fault in our system and practices. I feel the reason for this is over-dependence of the whole world on the biased ‘Western Media’. They talk about the black authorities being “Racist” which is totally false. We believe in “One Nation” of “One People” represented by “One Team”. The act which you mentioned about of the established players walking out was in retaliation of us removing the captain. The Western media was quick to pounce on the news but no one really cared to find out why we were forced to take such a decision. When we at ZCU train, select, provide and support a National Team, we expect them to honor the team as a face of the Nation. They are the Ambassadors of the country. Sadly we found that the team was not justifying the values of our beliefs and thus we needed to take certain steps to save the sanctity of our institution and our nation.

The over influence of the world on Western Media has left them clueless of what the circumstances were that led you to take such measures. How exactly was that former team disrespecting the ‘principles and beliefs’ of ZCU? I’m sure the World will be interested to know your side of the story.

Yes, most of the world does not know what was going through the team until we took the necessary steps. And that seems to be the reason why i feel it is important that one should listen to both sides of the story to come to a decision. What was troubling us at the ZCU was the feeling of division in that team. No one knows that when Zimbabwe had gone to tour Australia, there were two buses which used to take the teams from the hotel to the grounds and vice versa. One bus was for the White players, the other bus was for the Black players. Now anyone who knows about team building and team spirit knows that such kind of practices are not healthy. Furthermore, there used to be so called “TEAM MEETINGS” of the 5-6 “established” players and the rest of the team members including the then-Vice Captain (Tatenda Taibu) was not even aware of those meetings. What is disheartening to know is , that the “independent” Western Media chose to keep a closed eye on such malpractices and when we took steps to curb these, we were made out to be “Racists”. ZCU has a policy of treating and supporting everyone equally. But it is sad to find out from all these experiences that there is a certain sect of people who find it shameful to be treated “equally”.

Those are really never heard before incidences Mr. Chingoka, why hasn’t the world heard of them before? Don’t you think that you need a better face of representation to put your story forward? Hearing all this certainly changed my perceptions on the whole issue. I believe there still are some white players in the top pool of Zimbabwean cricket at the moment, how are things going on with them?

When someone is eager to know with an un-biased perspective, that’s the time when the real picture emerges. We believe in what we do is correct to the faith of Goodness and Equality and that is what keeps us strong and focused on our goals. I appreciate what is trying to do by having an unbiased point of view and giving platform to our views for the world to know .I wish you the best. Yes indeed, there are some White players who are with the ZCU .They are being supported by us like all other players and if they develop their game and themselves to the international level, you will see a multi colored Zimbabwe team again. They are not ready for the top level of cricket yet but they are trying along with other players in the small pool of players we have. This shows that the ZCU is bound by its faith in equality and welcomes anyone of any color or race to bring glory and success to Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean cricket.

During these tough times which ZCU has been facing, how much support have you received from the other corners of the cricketing world, in particular the Sub-Continent which is the Cricket-Nucleus of the world now?

Very supportive indeed, they have understood our problems, our limitations right throughout our existence and have been very kind like an ‘all-weather-friend’. JAGGU ( BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya) is a very close friend of mine and has always helped us. The recent INDIA ‘A’ & PAKISTAN ‘A’ tours to play our developing teams certainly have been very exciting and helpful. They’ve always helped us to develop Cricket here. With these A-team tours to play Zimbabwe, it has helped our new and young emerging players to have a feel of International pressure and exposure to international talent and cricket practices. These tours have really helped us to give them an idea of what to expect by being in the International cricket scene. And with more such tours we hope to bridge the gap between the performance of the emerging team and the former team quickly.

Mr Peter Chingoka, speaking as a Cricket follower from India, and getting to understand the state of Cricket in Africa, It was a pleasure sharing so much knowledge with you, and looking at the development of the game in new territories in Africa and sustaining the essence of cricket in the already established cricketing nations, i would like to congratulate you and wish the best for your works and hope we see a strong emerging Zimbabwe and more African nations to follow. Do you want to give a message to the millions of Cricket fans in India & across the world?

Thank you once again for giving the world a window to have a look at Cricket in Africa, we appreciate that. I would like to tell the people of India and the rest of the world to keep faith in the beliefs of the game and keep on supporting the great game of Cricket and cricket in Africa. Thank you.

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