Cape Town: Zimbabwe skipper Heath Streak is planning a hot rather than a warm reception for the Indians when they arrive in Harare to play their third World Cup league game next Sunday. "We remember from our past games what Indians don't like," Streak said on Saturday in an interview. "They have appeared susceptible to balls seaming and swinging on our tracks," Streak said. Streak was referring to India's recent record in Harare where it has lost two of the three Tests and has also been beaten in One-dayers.
India, led by Mohammad Azharuddin, also came a cropper in 1998 when it failed to chase a target of 250 plus in the fourth innings in a one-off Test. In May 2001, it was Saurav Ganguly and his men who collapsed to only 200-odd runs in their second innings to once again lay beaten. "We also know they had a poor series in New Zealand and we would make our preparations keeping these points in mind," said Streak. India has a history of having some extremely close finishes with Zimbabwe starting with 1983 World Cup when it had the Indians reeling at 17 for five before Kapil Dev played an all-time great innings of 175. India was astonishingly beaten by Zimbabwe in the last edition of the World Cup in England, losing three wickets in the final over.
It was a defeat which hurt it enormously for the rest of the tournament. Streak believes that with all six first-round matches at home, Zimbabwe is perfectly capable of reaching the super six stage. "Obviously there have been a lot of distractions but the guys have been very focused on the World Cup," he said. Streak wants to concentrate entirely on cricket and would rather not comment on the politics swirling over the cricketing set-up of his country. "I am not an economist or a politician. I keep out of that," said Streak. "This is not a cricketing issue.
That's up to the economists and the politicians. I've got games of cricket to play and I'm looking forward to hosting our World Cup games." Streak is privileged compared to most of his countrymen but even he has had his share of governmental attention in the past. His father Dennis was jailed when he refused to give up his farm. Three-quarters of the land was taken over under President Robert Mugabe's redressal plan. But Heath Streak, the 28-year-old veteran of 51 Tests and 149 One-day games, is adamant Zimbabwe is a safe place to play cricket.
"The ICC sent out a 17-member delegation that included local authorities and special security advisers, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed came through as a follow-up with the deputy commander to the police force in South Africa, and an independent US security firm also assessed the situation," he said. "They are all happy with the arrangements that have been made. Those people have obviously been very thorough in their judgements," Streak said. "They've said it's going to be safe for the players and I've got to admit that certainly we don't feel under threat at the moment.
I'm sure everything for the players will be fine." Streak firmly believes cricket in his country needs high-profile teams like Australia to visit. "More recently the administration has been very professional, but because we're basically a country dominated by multinational companies the economy of the country doesn't have as much influence on what happens," he said. "Most of the funds derived for Zimbabwean cricket are from external tours and sponsorship. Teams like Australia not coming here to play obviously has huge financial implications. "It harms a lot of schools where young cricketers are sponsored and scholarships are given out by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU). A lot of people are employed by the ZCU. Not just cricketers but administrators and coaches.
"There are a lot of grounds that are subsided and development programmes that are funded by the ZCU. There is a fear that if teams don't come here, it will start harming the support structure that surrounds our cricket. It would have a detrimental impact on our up-and-coming cricketers." And for these reasons, Streak said the World Cup matches in Zimbabwe against high- profile sides Australia, England, India and Pakistan would be of enormous value. "The World Cup is going to show people there are opportunities out there professionally and youngsters will come into the ranks even quicker," he said.