On a sticky wicket: A Zimbabwean soldier watches shoppers lining up in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP/Zinyange Auntony
On a sticky wicket: A Zimbabwean soldier watches shoppers lining up in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP/Zinyange Auntony

Cricket makes a pretty good metaphor for a country. It’s a game that takes time to wind up and hit its stride. It has fast moments and dull patches and joys and disappointments.

So it’s quite apt — and disturbing — that the International Cricket Council (ICC) suspended Zimbabwe’s membership last week over its failure to keep the sport free of government interference. The ICC suspension follows the government’s move in June to suspend the Zimbabwe cricket board and replace it with a committee. The result? The ICC funding tap is turned off and the country cannot take part in ICC events.

This unhappy sideshow takes place against a backdrop of despair as the country’s economy flounders. Inflation hit 175% in June. A drought has caused the Kariba dam to drop to 24% of capacity, which has hammered Zimbabwe’s power supply. Load-shedding is a way of life, with blackouts lasting up to 20 hours. Teachers are struggling to feed themselves, let alone teach. Hospitals battle to provide even basic care.

Economic turmoil has been worsened by the government’s decision to outlaw the US dollar as legal tender and pave the way for the return of the Zimbabwe dollar — yes, the same currency that was printed into worthlessness and suspended only when inflation reached 500-billion percent in 2008 — and police now spend much time cracking down on those who would dare to trade in US dollars.

People can survive hyperinflation, a stagnant economy, rolling blackouts and empty supermarkets. But lose a small reason for hope and joy, the chance to feel a bit of national pride? Well, it’s just not cricket.