Following his recent sacking as Zimbabwe’s head coach, Heath Streak has taken to social media to defend himself against allegations of racism by Tavengwa Mukuhlani, the Zimbabwe Cricket chairman.
Streak and the entire coaching staff comprising Lance Klusener, the batting coach, Douglas Hondo, the bowling coach, Walter Chawaguta, the fielding coach, Sean Bell, the fitness coach, and Stanley Chioza, the analyst, were sacked after having refused to resign by the deadline set by ZC. Tatenda Taiba, the convener of selectors, too was shown the door following Zimbabwe’s failure to make it to the 2019 World Cup after the team finished outside the top two in last month’s qualifying tournament, which they hosted.
In the aftermath, Mukuhlani implied that racism had played a role in some of the selections made by Streak.
“Streak was the coach and selector, he was entitled to change the team as he found fit but the question is: why did he change the team in the manner that he did?” Mukuhlani told Daily News. “The white players knew PJ Moor was going to play (against UAE) but none of the black players knew about it.
“Cephas Zhuwao was only informed (that he had been omitted) in the warm-up. Why didn’t Streak inform the entire team?”
Streak hit back on Sunday (April 8), saying the racism allegations were “preposterous and laughable”. Speaking in Ndebele, an indigenous Zimbabwean language, he said, “I’ve been accused by the chairman of ZC of being a racist, I find this preposterous and laughable and even to respond to them — for people who know me — is lowering my standards. But I just want to make a few things notable. Our selection panel consisted of myself, Tatenda Taibu and Douglas Hondo. They are always consulted, and we always reached consensus on our teams.
“Graeme Cremer (the captain) was not a selector, but he gave advice, and we also spoke to other guys outside, including the franchise coaches at times, to give us some of their thoughts,” added the former Zimbabwe captain. “The allegations that during the WCQ, I dropped black players for white players is also ludicrous. When I dropped people like Kyle Jarvis for Tendai Chisoro nothing was said, but when I dropped Cephas Zhwao for PJ Moor, then I’m a racist.
“Those who are around me and who know me and are most important to me, as in the players, can vouch for that [I’m not a racist],” he went on. “Why do all these people that the chairman claims are accusing me of racism, why do they not come out in public and say that themselves? Let’s see that. This is not about Heath Streak and Tatenda Taibu being fired, this is a bigger thing. If you look at the collective time all the coaches who were fired have put into playing for Zimbabwe and the time we’ve spent coaching, it amounts to decades.”
ZC sacked 13 members of the support staff across the national, ‘A’ and Under-19 teams on April 1. After an emergency meeting on March 25, all 13 members were given time till March 30 to submit their resignations. After only five resignations had been received by the deadline, the board decided to terminate the contract of all members with immediate effect.
“I think the way we’ve been treated, the way we were fired, it just isn’t right, and it’s not ethical that you can treat people like that. I’m just really sad that five of eight Level 3 coaches have been fired by Zimbabwe Cricket. We have people like physiotherapists and trainers who have nothing to do with how the team performs. They are not technical staff, they are there to get people fit and on the park, and they can’t be fired. I think that’s ludicrous and just wrong.”
Streak, who’s currently in India with Kolkata Knight Riders as their bowling coach, also highlighted the financial crisis that has affected the national team. He revealed that most of the support staff, including himself and Klusener had only been paid 40% of their salaries, and had not yet received their salary for the month of February.
“The state of domestic cricket is a major concern,” he said. “We haven’t completed our Logan Cup, we barely started our List A, and we haven’t played domestic T20 for the last two years. These are things the ICC, as a Full Member country require us to complete as part of our membership and as part of getting our disbursements from ICC. So by not doing this we risk some of these things, and I think the ZC need to have a long hard look at themselves.
“The salaries and monetary concerns are also massive. ZC has a huge debt to service, but well-documented salary delays, non-payment of match fees, staff not being paid. In fact, during this World Cup Qualifier, most of the ZC staff, apart from the players whom we managed to convince ZC to pay their full salaries, most people were working on 40% salary including myself and Lance Klusener. We still haven’t been paid the balance of our February salary, and I don’t know if people will be paid the March salaries. This is our major concern and something that we need to address.”
Streak concluded by pointing out the lack of cricketing experience in ZC board members. “How many cricketers are there on the ZC board, I ask? Every other board in the world has a number of cricketers, ex-cricketers and people who’ve played at a decent level. We don’t even have one cap of domestic cricket on the current board. So how do they make decisions, cricket-based decisions, affect people whose livelihoods and finances are dependent on that?”