ON AN average, Darlington Majonga receives half-a-dozen mails of the kind every week. The theme’s always the same. The sender claims to be an amateur cricketer with talent but no opportunity in his respective home country, and wants to represent Zimbabwe at the international level instead. According to Majonga public relations and media manager of Zimbabwe Cricket though, the arbitrary job applications read more like desperate pleas to him. And despite at times being moved by the despairing but not unconditional keenness of these literally anonymous foreigners to don Zimbabwean colours, all he can do is laugh them off.
It’s not just Majonga who has to deal with these peculiar inquiries though. Sikander Raza’s mailbox is never short of them either. The 30-year-old right-hander is a pioneer of sorts, having emigrated from Pakistan — he was born in Sialkot and did all his schooling there to Zimbabwe with his family at the turn of the century. And it’s not surprising that many of his countrymen in particular sound excited about walking in his footsteps and emulating his feat.
“I am flooded with these emails,” he says almost like a lament before adding, “They all want to know how I made it through, and what they need to do to come here and play for Zimbabwe.” He explains that the rule of the land states that any aspiring Zimbabwean has to spend a minimum of 10 years in the country before being applicable for permanent residency. Raza’s family moved to Zimbabwe in 2002, and he himself only settled here after finishing his studies in Europe. “I try explaining it to them, but they simply don’t listen. They then ask me to put in a word or use my influence, but I tell them that even the President of Zimbabwe can’t help them if they don’t fulfil the residency qualifications and stay here for 10 years,” he explains, adding that while he does get some calls from other parts of the world, it’s generally those of Asian origin.
Most of these aspiring Zimbabwean cricketers insist on the stiff competition that exists in their respective homelands halting their progress and that they wish to fulfil their dream of playing international cricket via this unprecedented route. And it is understandable that for someone playing league cricket in the north of India or in the hotbed of Pakistan cricket, donning his national team’s colours seems like an unrealistic goal.
It is also a sign, however, of how far Zimbabwean cricket has plummeted that these self-confessed aspirants from far-flung lands think all they need to do to play for their team is ask for permission. Not surprisingly, most applicants insist on being good with both bat and ball and also of having played cricket at a decent level for a sizable period of time. “There have always been constant inquiries coming in about people wanting to play for Zimbabwe. But I’ve certainly seen a rise in them since the World T20. Maybe there are more people out there who think we need their help,” says Majonga.
“They are mostly guys from India or Pakistan. But I also once received a mail from an Indian claiming to be based in Italy and still wanting to play for Zimbabwe,” he quips.
One of the emails comes from a youngster from the Siwan district in Bihar, who laments about his state not having a recognized cricket association, which is thwarting his dream of playing on the ‘big stage’. The other complaints put forth commonly refer to the old issues of selection based on influence and even bribes. “Sir, i want to tell you that here in pakistan every thing in every field you can get the required job on reference and bribe . and sir i dont have any of the above two. i want to play from your country side would you please sir give me a chance,” reads one mail that Majonga has received this week.
In another one, the writer speaks of how his cricket career has been bogged down by the caste discrimination in India and how he wishes for Zimbabwe to accept not just him but all other young cricketers from the country who struggle with the politics involved in the sport. “I am playing 7yr in cricket expereince and so many club matches and league matches i’m played..But all waste sir. because in india there is no chance for next level for my dream.because so many politics and lots of caste problem sir!! Then how will i reach my goal sir!,” it reads. Meanwhile, according to the ICC’s core qualification criteria in this regard, a player has to be either born in the relevant country or be ‘able to demonstrate by possession of a valid passport issued by the relevant country that he’s a national’. “At times it’s tough to explain it to these people. They all seem ready to go to any distance to make this happen as they realize the competition is so stiff back home, but there’s little any of us can do about it,” says Raza.
With Zimbabwe cricket struggling to stem their slide and the light at the end of the tunnel only getting bleaker, it’s unlikely that neither Majonga nor Raza will stop having to contend with these indecent proposals anytime soon.
Dear sir… to play for Zimbabwe
From:nnnnnnRathore [mailto:tr nnnnnn firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 15,
2016 12:37 PM
Hello sir this is nnnnnn Rathore 23yrs old from India left handed batsman and right arm bowler , sir I want to play for Zimbabwe cricket I m a good all-rounder and I still struggling in cricket because I m not richest persons son. i’ll make u r team strong sir please give me a chance to prove :-)
Sent: Monday, June 13, 2016 11:14 AM
Subject: To play for Zimbabwe
I am nnnnnn Bhardwaj from siwan district of Bihar. We have our cricket team of siwan district and we play consistently for our district since 2007. But we don’t get any chance to play on big stage as our Bihar Cricket Association is not registered. Is it possible that we can play for your country. If yes, then can you please share the procedure.
From: nnnnnn Ali [mailto:nnnnnn email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 12,
2016 7:14 AM
Subject: apply as player
dear sir , how r u my name is ali and i from pakistan sir i want to tell you that here in pakistan every thing in every field you can get the required job on reference and bribe. and sir i dont have any of the above two. i want to play from your country side.
From: nnnnnn [mailto:nnnnnn firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 8:51 AM
Subject: nnnnnn Ali
My name is nnnnnn Ali. I live in Pakistan. I am a Fast Bowler. But in Pakistan I have not give a chance for play cricket. I want to Play Cricket in Zimbabwe Cricket team. Give me a chance for trail in Zimbabwe and look my abilities.
Muhammad nnnnnn ali