Heath Streak, Zimbabwe’s unsung legend will be remembered | Sunday Observer

Heath Streak, Zimbabwe’s unsung legend will be remembered

10 September, 2023
Heath Streak
Heath Streak

Heath Streak, who has died aged 49, will be remembered as Zimbabwe’s best bowler of all time, and a key player during their most successful spell in international cricket.

Streak, who had been having treatment for cancer, remains his country’s highest wicket-taker in both Test and one-day international cricket.

Like many Zimbabwean players of that era, his playing days were often overshadowed by wide-ranging political issues.

But after a series of coaching appointments at home and abroad, his career was effectively ended in 2021 with a ban from the International Cricket Council (ICC) following corruption charges.

Heath Hilton Streak was born in Bulawayo in March 1974, in a country then known as Rhodesia - for which his father Denis had played at first-class level.

Growing up on the family ranch, young Heath made his name as a prodigious schoolboy all-rounder who could bowl fast, hit the ball hard and was an excellent fielder.

He had only four unremarkable first-class appearances under his belt when he was chosen as one of six Test debutants against Pakistan in Karachi in December 1993.

Streak sent down 39 wicketless overs for 117 runs and was bowled for a first-ball duck by Waqar Younis, but the teenager showed glimpses of his wholehearted character in the second innings, grinding out an unbeaten 19 in 137 minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to save the Test.

Better luck was to follow in Rawalpindi as Streak captured the first of his seven five-wicket Test hauls - still a Zimbabwe record.

By the time Pakistan toured Zimbabwe in early 1995, Streak was the spearhead of the hosts’ attack, taking 6-90 in the first innings of Zimbabwe’s first-ever Test win.

He spent that summer with English county side Hampshire, gaining valuable experience, and there was double delight for the Streak family when Denis came out of retirement aged 46 to join Heath in playing for Matabeleland as they beat Mashonaland in Zimbabwe’s Logan Cup final in Bulawayo in 1996.

lthough his country continued to struggle to put out competitive teams on the world stage, and to pay its players and coaches, Streak did return as Zimbabwe’s bowling coach in 2009, before taking a similar role with Bangladesh.

He was given the Zimbabwe head coach role in 2016, but he and his entire coaching staff were sacked by email after the team failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

Streak also held coaching and consultancy roles with Scotland, Somerset and in the Indian Premier League, but his association with the game ended on a sour note in 2021 when he was banned from cricket for eight years by the ICC.

The governing body found that he had colluded with an Indian man known as ‘Mr X’, passing on information about franchise T20 leagues - likely to be used for betting on games - and players’ contact details, in return for two bitcoins and an iPhone for his wife.

Having admitted disclosing information, he insisted he had never been involved in match-fixing.

The cancer diagnosis was announced in May 2023, with a family statement referencing his indomitable spirit.

(BBC Sport)