Cricket row: Let's find common ground

HARARE - After spending four quality nights in the peaceful and tranquil surroundings of Lake Kariba, I was brought back to reality with a bone-jarring thud when I heard about the row between Senator David Coltart and chairperson of selectors Givemore Makoni.

This very unpleasant turn of events has the potential of becoming very ugly and opening old wounds that could lead to a total disruption in a sport which is already buckling under financial constraints and the lack of international fixtures.

When writing an article, I always try my very best to remain neutral and simply call it as I see it, if you’ll pardon the pun.

So instead of choosing sides, I would like to tell the reader my story and the challenges I have experienced as somebody trying to make it in the world of commentating as someone who never played cricket at any level whatsoever.

My career as a cricket commentator/analyst had always been a bit of a roller-coaster ride with a few ups and many downs which is why I eventually decided to call it a day.

The most obvious question I was always asked, and still get asked is how I am able to commentate on a match without been able to see? In fact, a very well-known journalist once called me a fake and con artist, saying the reason why I wore dark glasses was because I could see and tried to trick the public.

For the sake of causing this very well-known public figure total embarrassment and humiliation, he will remain nameless though it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out who I am talking about.

These allegations were made in the infancy of my career, and very nearly caused me to quietly walk away from something I always wanted to do.

But, it did leave me asking myself the question that thousands of people no doubt asked themselves on a daily basis. That question was, what right did I have to step into a commentary box and voice my opinions when I never played the game?

I personally feel that this debate is a double-edged sword, with both parties making valid points. Though it is sad to note that the word “racist” was used yet again.

I personally faced many challenges as a commentator, and understandably so.

Think about it, who in their right mind would trust a person that has been blind from birth to describe the action on a cricket pitch to millions of viewers around the world, with the real possibility of making a monumental mistake?

And yet, there were those who believed in me and my ability and who gave me the opportunity to put my skills to the test.

These opportunities, however, were few and far between, and I was quick to discover that broadcasters were using me as a marketing tool and not because they felt I could contribute.

But I stuck to my guns in the belief that eventually the big brake would come my way and that I would finally become a full-time presenter without been asked how I commentate, or what right I had to commentate.

I would like to believe that even though I have never bowled a ball, scored a run or taken a catch at any level, I am quite capable of holding my own in a cricket conversation with any cricketer, past or present.

This is a statement that could be perceived as being arrogant, but I have the facts and ammunition to back myself if it comes to that.

Even though I feel that I may have been hard done by, I would achieve absolutely nothing by shouting my mouth off and accusing people of discriminating against me because I’m blind.

And yet, I probably had every right to do so. The perfect example would have been when Zimbabwe went on tour.

I was fortunate enough to have gone to Bangladesh with the national team back in 2009, and I will be grateful to Zimbabwe Cricket for the rest of my life for affording me such an experience.

But, that was the first and last time I was to tour with the team.

When I got back from Bangladesh, I was repeatedly told what a wonderful job I did and that the entire nation was proud of me.

And yet, when the team went on tour again, I was not included.

A number of reasons were given, one was that I was disrupting the routine of the players because they felt obliged to check up on me and make sure I was alright.

Another reason was that we needed to give the rest of the media team the opportunity to go on tour with the team. This was a fair call and I had absolutely no problem with the decision.

However, it soon became apparent that the reports and previews were inaccurate and that mistakes were made on a regular basis.

If I wanted to, I could have shouted my mouth off and accused many people of discriminating against me because of my disability. Because in my heart of hearts, I knew that I was best-equipped to deliver reliable and up-to-date reports and previews.

I could even have used the word I personally hate!!!! That word been “racist”. But I chose not to go that route.

Now we, the cricket fraternity once again find ourselves facing looming danger and disaster and it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

The compilation of a team of selectors is a very tricky one. Yes, the most important criteria is for each and every selector to have a vast expanse of knowledge of the sport.

But is it fair to say that people should only be a selector or commentator if they have played the game?

There are many commentators around the world who are employed by television networks simply because of their achievements on the field, but in truth, are hopelessly inadequate in the commentary box.

I believe that although we should never forget the contributions of our former players, it doesn’t always mean they automatically become good commentators or selectors.

I once had a chat with a former player-turned selector and I was shocked to discover that he was unable to identify most of the players playing for Zimbabwe A.

This was a man who we as cricket lovers placed our trust in to ensure that the correct team would be picked, and yet, he was found wanting.

And so to conclude, I would like to say that even though I was never allowed to show the world my full potential, I certainly will never lower my standards by accusing people of being racial, but at the same time, I would also never be blinded by the fact that administrators should be selected purely on the fact that they played cricket.

If that was the case, the name Dean du Plessis would never have inspired people with disabilities to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams. - Dean du Plessis, OWN CORRESPONDENT

*Daily News correspondent Dean du Plessis, who was born blind, is a renowned Zimbabwean cricket broadcaster and writer.




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