Heath Streak

Heath Streak neither a messiah nor a victim

ESPN Cricinfo’s The Cricket Monthly recently published an article titled “The many silences of Heath Streak” which was written by the media outlet’s southern Africa correspondent Firdose Moonda.


The 5 164-word piece is packaged as some kind of magnus opus exploring how and why the former Zimbabwe captain and coach fell from grace and how he is coping with his eight-year ban from all cricket activities for breaching the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Code.


Bizarrely, instead of reporting on Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and the game of cricket as the only real victims of Streak’s shameless greed, Moonda seemed to get swept up in sympathy for the villain.


Indeed, one does not need to scratch beyond the surface to realise that the article is a clumsy and inept attempt to sway the publication’s unsuspecting readers into commiserating with a corrupt man.


In her rush to prop up Streak’s battered image, Moonda committed what should be considered a cardinal sin in journalism by not allowing facts to stand in the way of her hatchet job.


Right in the second paragraph of her article, she writes: “For the World Cup, the participation fee was US$100 000 and for every match won, teams earned an extra $40 000. Zimbabwe could have lost every match they played and still returned home with enough money to, for example, pay the salaries of the coaching staff for a year.”


In the next, the reporter claims: “Streak, who was the head coach at the time, and his support staff . . . voluntarily gave up their salaries for more than a year leading in to the qualifiers, in an attempt to mitigate against pay cuts for players.”


These are total lies.


Firstly, Streak, who was earning US$25 000 a month, never gave up his salary and if Zimbabwe were set to receive US$100 000 for participating in the World Cup, a simple calculation shows that money would not have been enough to pay him, let alone the coaching staff, for a year.


Secondly, our records indicate Streak was vehemently against salary cuts and only later accepted a 10 percent variation after he realised the rest of the employees on ZC’s payroll, including the players, had taken a 20 to 30 percent pay reduction as the organisation sought to survive financial challenges and remain afloat while clearing historical debts.


Moonda’s article is replete with further misrepresentations and cherry-picked truths deliberately plucked out of context to portray Streak as a victim of a corrupt cabal.


A super patriot, messianic figure or some kind of Robin Hood who knowingly engaged in illicit activities in his attempt to set up a T20 league for poor Zimbabwe, the author wants us to believe.


For good measure, a willing tool in the form of David Coltart is wheeled in to buttress a public relations effort that would have made Max Clifford proud.


“He stayed in the country. He ground it out. Much as I have got affection for Andy and Grant Flower, they are not here. They left the country. Heath is here,” Coltart dutifully gushes, in the process unfairly inflicting collateral damage by casting aspersions on the Flower brothers.


“So I hope that sentence can be reduced, because the sooner he is available to come back, the better for Zimbabwe Cricket. And personally, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Heath.”


No, Coltart. ZC and the game of cricket are better off without Streak and his corrupt ilk.


Coltart goes further in his attempt to downplay the breaches committed, saying it was a “lapse of judgment” on Streak’s part.


No, Coltart. It was corruption, specifically.


In truth, Streak got off incredibly easy, though one wouldn’t know it from the tone of Moonda’s article.


Contrary to the rabid railings of match-fixing apologists such as Coltart and others on social media sites like Twitter, Streak ruined his own life, career and image when he chose to hobnob with well-known criminals and get his palms thoroughly greased.


He does not deserve sympathy.


Trying to justify Streak’s misdeeds is akin to defending a rapist.


It’s not uncommon to hear societal misfits blaming a raped girl or woman for the sexual violation they would have suffered, suggesting “she shouldn’t wear such skimpy clothes”, “she shouldn’t have gone to his place” or “she shouldn’t have led him on”.


We see you, Coltart and your fellow apologists!


Corruption, like rape, is not an accident. Neither is it a mistake. It’s a deliberate choice, and we need to recognise that.


Stop apologising for those involved in such abominations and blaming the victims.


Instead of trying to exonerate Streak and extolling his supposed virtues, like his ability to speak the isiNdebele language fluently, perhaps an article under the title “The many silences of ZC” would have been more appropriate.


We could have chosen to remain silent, but we have realised allowing the devil to continue running with the gospel would in the end be detrimental to the future of the very game for which many have sacrificed.


While Streak was selling out his soul and country for a few pieces of silver, ZC was paying off its legacy debts amounting to more than US$27 million and strengthening its cricket structures.


Today, more cricket is now being played in and by Zimbabwe, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and new stars are emerging to take our game forward.


These are just a few of the many positive stories that are being ignored – because apparently they seem not to conform to the template designed for the demonisation of ZC for successfully making cricket a sport for all Zimbabweans, regardless of race, tribe or religion.


Sadly, many have over the years swallowed the demonisation propaganda hook, line and sinker.


It’s now time to wake up and smell the coffee.