Zimbabwe cricket is in a mess…..
On-field disappointments, financial crisis, administrative fallout, mishandling of players and support staffs, even allegations of racism and corruption — cricket, the second most popular sport in Zimbabwe after soccer, is currently under a semi-isolation. The failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup has shaken Zimbabwean cricket to its core and as a result, now the entire structure is falling down. If a local version is to be believed then currently the sport is heading towards a slow and painful death in this African nation.
Presently, politically, Zimbabwe as a country is going through a lot of changes. Robert Mugabe’s 37 years of autocracy has recently come to an end. But the wound has left its scar. The entire administrative system is in a mess right now and its side effects are evident in Zimbabwe’s economy, which is on the verge of a collapse.
Amidst all these crises, development of cricket has been stagnant in the country. In fact, forget about the development, financially hit Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), which currently owes the ICC USD 3 million to ICC, is finding it difficult to maintain the existing set-ups.
Following the unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, in an unprecedented move, ZC had sacked the entire coaching staff of the senior team headed by Heath Streak, as well as captain Graeme Cremer and convener of selectors Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe ‘A’ technical team staffs and the Under-19 coaching staffs. Country’s sporting fraternity and local media have interpreted this call by Tavengwa Mukuhlani-led ZC, as one of the most absurd and damaging decisions made by any sporting body ever in Zimbabwe’s history.
Remember, under the guidance of those support staffs, Zimbabwe registered its maiden ODI series win in Sri Lanka and almost pulled off a Test victory last year. It was Streak, who primarily convinced Brandon Taylor and Kyle Jarvis to comeback from a Kolpak move and rejoin the national team.
Furthermore, ahead of the start of the World Cup Qualifiers last month, the head coach as well as the other support staffs, took a pay cut so that players can receive their full salary from the financially struggling board and stay focused ahead of an important tournament. Streak and the other support staffs like batting coach Lance Klusener, fielding coach Walter Chawaguta, Stanley Chioza, the analyst, Sean Bell, the fitness trainer, and Anesu Mupotaringa, the physiotherapist had received only 40% of their remuneration.
On the field, prior to the UAE game, Zimbabwe did fairly well in the Qualifiers. In the group stages they remained unbeaten and following the 104-run victory over Ireland in their first Super-Six game, the equations were quite simple for the hosts — beat either of the West Indies or UAE and seal a spot in next year’s World Cup in England.
Unfortunately, the Creamer’s boys faltered, big time and that one defeat against UAE has changed the entire scenario in Zimbabwe cricket.
Remember, the Zimbabwe squad, which featured in the Qualifiers, had nine cricketers who age 30 or above. Now, with no World Cup next year as well as no financial security in the country, these senior pros, which include the likes of Cremer, Taylor, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Hamilton Masakadza might look to take up Kolpak or T20 deals. There nothing wrong with it as they need to sustain as a professional and their future in Zimbabwe looks bleak.
If these top players opt for early retirements, then the standards of Zimbabwe cricket will fall, significantly. And ZC is currently ill-equipped to produce new talents.
According to the author, all the stakeholders of Zimbabwe cricket need to come under one roof and find out a solution. It has been learnt that a few past players, former administrators and ex-employees have come together to lobby government officials and parliamentarians to lawfully dissolve the current ZC board. But, the author believes it is not the ideal solution to the problem. Dissolving the board will complicate the situation further. Instead, the government can influence the decision making of ZC and try and support the current administrative set-up in every manner. Also, ZC should immediately re-appoint all the sacked coaching staffs.
This year, ZC is scheduled to host Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Hence, it is high time for all the stakeholders, which includes ICC as well as to extend their helping hand, especially from the financial point of view.
Over the years, Zimbabwe have provided world cricket with some fond memories. So, if the cricketing world doesn’t stand behind them right now then Zimbabwe will suffer the same fate as Kenya did post the 2003 World Cup.