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Lesson over, he borrows a cigarette, saying “shukriya” with folded hands. As the woman leaves, she is presented with her new-found teacher’s media accreditation card. It says, “Name: Bryan Strang, Designation: Sri Krishna.”
Some would say Strang hit rock bottom after his cricket career (56 wickets in 26 Tests and 46 wickets in 49 ODIs for Zimbabwe between 1995 and 2001) ended, but the former left-arm seamer is personally convinced the ups and downs of his life are all part of a roller-coaster process of soul-searching.
For the 38-year-old from Bulawayo, the prison cells, bloody wounds, alcohol-related problems, manic depression, suicidal tendencies and self-inflicted injuries of the recent past have now been replaced by a deep and sincere spirituality.
“I found God and it changed my life,” says Strang, as he stubs out the cigarette butt. “I was angry with myself, my country and my life. By the time my career fizzled out, the revolution took ground in Zimbabwe.
“It was a terrible time in our lives. I was a white man who believed in harmony, somebody who wanted to be a monk in the Himalayas before I got fascinated by cricket. But all that changed when our lands were taken away from us. My anger made me rebel against the law,” he says, a faraway gloominess in his eyes.
The result was that he kept getting thrown in jail, which only increased his angst. “It was a misplaced sense of judgement,” he says. “I believed I should stand up against the law because it wasn’t my law. Then the alcohol took control. Nothing in my life made sense, there were broken relationships, and lots and lots of anti-depressant pills. I was put on Valium to be calmed.”
Although his brother, Paul, a former leg-spinner for Zimbabwe, and friends from the cricket field like the elegant former left-hand batsman Alistair Campbell stood by him, Strang knew the light to drive away his dark days would ultimately have to come from within.
“I left home and tried to live the life of a hermit, but I was still fighting myself. I went to England and worked as a chainman on the road. It was better therapy than the shrinks. Building a two-mile road gave me internal peace, but I still hadn’t made peace with my country.”
In 2008, Strang returned to Zimbabwe. “It was a difficult decision, but I had to come back to Bulawayo. A few months later, a man met me while I was having coffee and said, ‘You look like you could do with a prayer. I will pray for you when you come to church’. The next day I went, and four strangers prayed for me. Things began to change immediately,” he says.
In 2009, Strang found the guru who he says changed his life forever. It was Sri Sri Ravishankar.
“I started reading the Bhagavad Gita and the words made so much sense to me, for this was exactly what I was craving for all my life,” he says, adding, from the scripture, “Words can heal and words can wound.”
As his crumpled spirits lifted, Strang was able to take control of his mind. He became a teacher of yoga and spirituality at an Indian community in Westridge, Harare. And then, as he recovered, he was able every now and then to take time out to heal his other damaged love, cricket.
“Cricket is life, no other sport displays truer emotions. I’ve come back to spread the message of love and heal wounds.” Wearing a backpack, he mingles with the crowds at the Queens Sports Club, healing a few wounds along the way. Healing after being healed, life has come full circle for Bryan Strang.