Harare to Hatcliffe: A journey of care, compassion and contribution | Cricket Bats | Cricket Bat News


Adam Collins in Harare • Last updated on Thu, 05 Jul, 2018, 12:07 AM
Hatcliffe, by any measure, is a place of much greater need, ravaged by an order a dozen years ago that decimated their settlement.

Hatcliffe, by any measure, is a place of much greater need, ravaged by an order a dozen years ago that decimated their settlement. © Getty

Here is a nice story. One without a word of cynicism, about a bunch of Australian cricketers who spent their treasured time off doing something undeniably good.

To begin, it’s worth noting that cricket tours don’t do days off often – they play or they train or they prepare with little else in between. It makes the rare opportunities they get to escape the cocoon a luxury. On this crammed T20 tour of Zimbabwe, they had one such window: Wednesday.

Well, not for six players. They had another duty to discharge. At least, that’s how a visit to the humble town of Hatcliffe, 15 kilometres north of their Harare hotel, could have been interpreted. Yet when their bus pulled up, a dozen Australian squad members filed out alongside their coach, Justin Langer, and the team’s full support staff. They had volunteered to be there.

Without much publicity, each time the national team go overseas they participate in an event for Cricket Cares, the charity arm Cricket Australia established a decade ago to broaden out the volume of bodies that could be assisted by the elite game. For instance, last year in India they turned out to support a girls’ education group. Recently in South Africa it was a more confronting scene at a palliative care facility for those with AIDS.

This time, the Cricket Cares muscle was flexed on behalf of Grassroots Cricket, a Brisbane-based charity using the game inspire disadvantaged communities. In their words, they aim to “facilitate the spread of cricket in underdeveloped countries primarily in Africa to provide an opportunity for underprivileged children to enjoy a more fulfilling life.” With the help of Greg Chappell, the former Australian skipper who is their patron, Grassroots Cricket activists collect equipment from Brisbane clubs and deliver it where it is of much greater need.

Hatcliffe, by any measure, is a place of much greater need, ravaged by an order a dozen years ago that decimated their settlement. With much of the housing abolished, poverty and homelessness prevailed. Many of the 150 children at the town’s unofficial school (they are some 8km from the next “official” institution) are orphans. The moment the players left their bus at the school they were covered in the red dust. Part of the idea of taking young cricketers on these trips is to get them out of their comfort zone and this really was a long way from the palatial settings professional sportspeople are accustomed to.

For some, it didn’t show. Take Nic Maddinson. He didn’t need to be in attendance, and after copping a whack on the thumb at training during the week there are far less taxing activities he could have elected to partake in. Yet, as soon as formalities were over, he was the first to approach the enthralled third grade pupils to sample their handwriting and say hello.

Glenn Maxwell was right there with him, predictably enough the king of the kids, high-fiving and fist pumping his way around the room. He gave his wide-brimmed Australian hat to a girl called Michelle. She did not take it off over next couple of hours and quite possibly never will.

On the wall, covered in teachings of agriculture and lessons about the independence war (instructively, under the banner of ‘Living Together’), there was a mission statement that caught the eye of Langer. It contained five core values: integrity, empathy, transparency, commitment and team work. He stood for a photo next to the school’s administrator with the poster, noting that they are also exactly what he wants from his remodeled team.

By this stage, the new Australian boss wasn’t wearing any shoes. As we learned when he took over the gig, Langer likes to walk barefoot for a month a year so that shouldn’t be any real surprise. On this occasion, though, he gifted them to somebody without. The team’s communications manager, Kate Hutchison, did likewise. Andrew Tye went one step further and gave his socks as well. It was that kind of morning. All smiles and giving and care.

Now outside, Maxwell was into it again giving a batting lesson. Sure enough, he wasn’t teaching them the finer points of the forward defensive posture, instead demonstrating how they could “swish, boom and scoop” their way to the top. There can’t be many teachers for that. A few metres along, Tye and Billy Stanlake gave a tutorial in fast bowling while Ashton Agar was thrilled to see a lad’s perfect wrist position sending down some off-breaks.

When coming back together for further formalities, Marcus Stoinis was busy down at the soccer goals having the time of his life kicking the make-shift ball around with some students less interested in leather and willow. The smile couldn’t be wiped from his face.

It was a sentiment that vice-captain Alex Carey shared. “It is fantastic for us to experience this and it is great to see the kids smiling and it puts a smile on our faces as well,” he told Cricbuzz. “With underprivileged kids like it makes us realise how lucky we are. I have got no doubt that some of these kids are going to grow up to be international cricketers.”

After all the photos had been taken and cricket kit donated, captain Aaron Finch determined that they wanted to do more. But not just cash and cricket bats. Instead, on Saturday, the day before the final of this tri-series, they are arranging to have sent up what these kids of Hatcliffe need most: a healthy stash of school supplies. Well done, fellas. Really well done.

© Cricbuzz


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