Heath Streak, former Zimbabwe cricket captain and the nation’s all-time leading wicket-taker, has died at the age of 49 after battling liver and colon cancer.
“In the early hours of this morning, Sunday, 3 September, the greatest love of my life and the father of my beautiful children, was carried to be with the angels from his home where he wished to spend his last days surrounded by his family and closest loved ones,” his wife, Nadine Streak, wrote on social media.
ESPN reported that he had been receiving specialist treatment at a Johannesburg hospital in South Africa on a biweekly basis since May.
An outstanding fast bowler and capable batsman, Streak was a key member of Zimbabwe teams that were competitive against cricket’s bigger nations in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
However, his cricket career ended in ignominy in 2021 when he was banned for eight years for breaching the International Cricket Council (ICC) Anti-Corruption Code.
It was announced in May this year that Streak was seriously ill, and it was reported in August that he had died, following a message on social media from former teammate Henry Olonga.
Streak himself was quick to assert that he was still alive, but not before numerous former teammates and opponents paid tribute to him.
A strongly-built fast bowler able to extract movement from unhelpful pitches, Streak took 236 wickets at an average of 28.14 in 65 Test matches. No other Zimbabwean has taken more than 80 Test wickets.
He scored 1,990 runs at an average of 22.35 in Tests to stand seventh on the country’s all-time list. His highest score and only century was 127 (not out) against the West Indies in Harare in 2003.
Streak took 237 wickets – 104 more than his nearest rival – and scored 2,901 runs in 187 One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
His best Test bowling performance was typical. He took six for 73 while India piled up a total of 366 on the way to a 10-wicket win in Harare in 2005.
Really sad news of the passing away of Zimbabwe’s legendary cricketer #HeathStreak. Having fought my own battle with cancer, I know the strength it takes.
He was one of the nicest guys I encountered along my journey and an even stronger human being.
My prayers for the… pic.twitter.com/d637dVcSWA
— Yuvraj Singh (@YUVSTRONG12) September 3, 2023
Streak had two spells as Zimbabwe captain, interrupted by a dispute with Zimbabwe Cricket in 2001 over pay and racial quota issues.
The highlight of his four wins in 21 Tests as captain was Zimbabwe’s first Test victory against India in Harare in 2001.
He took seven wickets in the match, dismissing Sachin Tendulkar in both innings, and scored 40 runs in the first innings.
He led Zimbabwe in 68 ODIs, including the 2003 World Cup in Southern Africa when Zimbabwe reached the Super Six stage.
He was sacked as captain in 2004 at a time of upheaval in Zimbabwe Cricket when 15 leading players rebelled against the administration.
This, in turn, led to a much-weakened team temporarily losing their Test-playing status.
He retired from international cricket in 2005.
After his last spell as a player with English county Warwickshire, he became Zimbabwe’s bowling coach in 2009. His coaching career included stints in Bangladesh, India, England and Scotland.
He was Zimbabwe’s head coach from 2016 to 2018, when he was fired after the team failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
He was banned for eight years by the ICC for passing on information and contact details of players to an unnamed Indian man and accepting payment which included $35,000 in Bitcoin.
Streak accepted responsibility for his actions, but said he had never been involved in match-fixing.