Bitter sweet symphony

HARARE - When Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) made the announcement that the Masvingo-based franchise, Southern Rocks would no longer be part of the franchise/first class system, the news would undoubtedly have been met with mixed reactions.

The first reaction would have been one of disappointment and possibly even anger by some of the Masvingo faithful who have followed their beloved team regardless of their mediocre performances throughout their five years in the top flight of Zimbabwe's premier domestic competition.

Coaches both domestic and international tried everything humanly possible to change the fortunes of the struggling franchise, but a combination of financial problems and a hot headed CEO always led to senior players and coaches quitting the franchise and moving on to seemingly greener pastures.

This in itself is a crying shame, as the quaint town, situated approximately 289KM south of Harare would have been the perfect town for an international coach to not only do his job, but to also appreciate many of the scenic sights, such as Great Zimbabwe, and the breath taking beautiful Lake Mutirikwe.

Coaching the Rocks or even playing for them would always be a challenge, and one that many would have accepted with alacrity, if they were one of those who liked a challenge.

But, after some sound advice from the International Cricket Council (ICC), it was decided to do away with the struggling franchise.

But, will this decision benefit the progression of cricket in the country?

The province of Masvingo is the most populated province in Zimbabwe, and there was always a thought that the bustling town and its surrounding areas would have produced some genuine quality players.

Sadly, it soon became very apparent that this would not be the case for some unexplainable reason.

The love and passion for the game in that part of the country is alive and well, and the town of Masvingo is blessed with a fine school by the name of Kyle College, which has always been there and there about in all forms of sports for a number of years.

And yet, the Southern Rocks always had to look elsewhere for their players.

A number of Harare-based players were forced to travel the three hours south of the capital for home games, and some even took more drastic steps and adopted Masvingo as their new home.

But, even with the help of some of the more senior Harare-based players, the franchise always seemed to be lagging behind in the various competitions, especially the Logan Cup – the four-day tournament.

The Rocks did, however, enjoy some success in the shorter version of the game when they won the Pro-50 Cup a few seasons ago, thanks to some outstanding performances by their ace bowler Brian Vitori.

Vitori made his presence well known in that particular competition, which subsequently catapulted the relatively unknown left-arm seamer into the A side, and then into the national team where he made history against Bangladesh when he became the first player ever to take two consecutive five wicket halls in his first two appearances for his country.

Other than Vitori, the province has sadly failed to produce any players of real quality.

The likes of Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Alistair Marigwede and even Tatenda Taibu all had stints with the Southern Rocks, but the outcome was as unrewarding as the pitch they played on (flat and lifeless).

Even so, there would have been a few teary-eyed supporters who if nothing else, enjoyed the idea of spending a quiet Saturday and Sunday at Masvingo Sports Club while encouraging their team.

The reality of the situation is that five franchises were always going to be too many in Zimbabwe.

Another point to consider was the geographical layout out of the venue.

Travelling 289KM south of Harare wasn't exactly ideal for those teams wanting to tour Zimbabwe whereas the likes of Mutare and Kwekwe are more central and easier to get to, if they chose to play matches out of Harare.

Unfortunately the time has come to consider the wellbeing and progression of cricket in the country, and all sentimental thoughts will have to be put on ice.

At least for the time being.

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