Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE Cricket faces the grim possibility of being put on notice for suspension from the International Cricket Council — with the taps that have been providing the game with financial support being turned off — paralysing the sport in this country and plunging it into darkness.
This could happen as early as two weeks from now at the ICC Annual Conference in Dublin, Ireland, should the ZC leadership fail — as they have done so far — to provide the international cricket governing body with a guarantee that the multi-million-dollar debt owed to local banks will get a 30 percent discount on the principal amount.
The $19 million debt has been housed under the Zimbabwe Asset Management Corporation, but it still reflects on ZC books.
And the ICC now want a Government guarantee that a 30 percent haircut on the principal amount would be effected to enable debt-free funds to start flowing into domestic cricket, from next month, which would then be pumped into the game rather than servicing the debts.
The ICC are also prepared, as part of their commitment to resolve the debt which has been choking domestic cricket, to provide a relief on their $6 million debt which is owed by ZC as part of a comprehensive eight-year debt-dissolution master-plan.
The ICC believe this could help the domestic game remain on its feet until 2023 rather than be choked by the massive debt.
The ICC remain concerned that fresh funds being pumped into Zimbabwe Cricket continue to be burdened by the massive debt, from both source to recipient, leaving the domestic game without the financial muscle that it requires to keep floating and, crucially, competing against teams in the top-tier of the game where its status as a Full Member demands.
ICC chairman Shashank Manohar discussed the delicate issue of the ZC debt when he paid the country a five-day visit in August last year, in the company of his wife Varsha, and the possible horrific implications for the game in this country should things not be resolved quickly.
Recently, the ICC sent a representative to this country to meet with the authorities, including Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe to discuss the issues related to the debt-dissolution master-plan.
And The Herald has now been advised that a red alert has now been raised and there is now the grim possibility of the country being put on notice for suspension from the organisation.
Should that happen, when the ICC leaders meet at their annual conference in Dublin at the end of this month, then the domestic game, whose stock and appeal among the fans peaked during the 2018 ICC Cricket Qualifiers with the biggest attendance figures being recorded at Harare Sports Club, could brace for the following:
Suspension from the ICC family of nations, including but not limited to, the eventual loss of its membership of the exclusive group of 12 ICC Full members, and the huge financial rewards, which come with such a status.
Whereas ZC are entitled to $94 million, from the ICC, over the next eight years, the financial injection from the world cricket body will whittle down to just about $8 million, over the same number of years, because the game would have lost its place among the Full Members.
On re-admission, in the event that the issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the ICC family, Zimbabwe will have to start from the very bottom, in terms of rankings, about 105 in the world, in a game in which the country is ranked among the 12 top nations.
There could be a considerable flight of both the playing personnel and related technical staff, during that period in which the game would be bleeding in the darkness, from the country in search of better pastures elsewhere and this could severely cripple the sport which has established itself as the second most popular discipline after football in the country.
Facilities, in Harare, Bulawayo and Kwekwe, which were renovated recently at a cost of millions of dollars for the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, will also be left as empty shells because the country will not have the top-flight matches which can be played there.
Scotland, who played well at the
recent ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers and charmed the globe with their competitiveness, and who recently took their game a notch higher by beating England in an ODI match, could get enough support from the game’s cricket leadership to be pushed through as the replacements of Zimbabwe among the Test playing nations in June next year.
The process to put Zimbabwe on the notice for possible suspension could have been effected in April this year but it was put on hold because the ZC leadership did not attend that meeting to put forward their defence and is now set to be raised at the ICC annual meeting in Dublin which starts on June 28.
Zimbabwe appears to be losing the support from some of its traditional backers, including the Asian heavyweights who normally fight in the corner of the country when it comes to the boardroom battles of international cricket, because there hasn’t been any movement locally to secure what the guarantees required to deal with the debt issue.
The charges against Zimbabwe Cricket will hinge on the insolvency of the organisation, which provides the international football family, especially those opposed to the country’s continued flirtation with the best in the game, the ammunition to wield the axe and enforce the suspension.
All that is required for the stopping of the process to suspend the country is for the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Culture, and other relevant bodies, to provide the letter of commitment that a 30 percent haircut on the domestic $13 million will be effected, with the payment of the loans pushed back to 2023, and the ICC will then also effect a similar move for the ZC debt on their books.
The interest rate on the debt, which has been housed under ZAMCO, would then be frozen at 6.5 percent until 2023, and the ICC will then make a one-off payment to ZAMCO by 2023, for the dissolution of the ZC loan on their shelves with this leaving ZC without debt and with breathing space for their operations.
‘’The ICC are actually saying they are ready to sacrifice $3 million of the amount owed by ZC, if they can get a letter of commitment and guarantee, for it to then not only guarantee $94 million in hard forex coming into this country but also, crucially, for the game in Zimbabwe to have a chance,’’ sources told The Herald.
‘’The ICC are saying that each time we give you money, a big chunk goes to the dissolution of the debt, and between 2018 and 2023, all the money coming here should go towards the development of cricket and oiling its operations.
‘’This year, the ICC are supposed to give ZC $9 million but it will only come as $6 million because $3 million would have gone towards the dissolution of the ICC debt but they are prepared to help by giving the whole $9 million if they get a letter of commitment to the debt-dissolution plan where the debt is shelved to 2023.’’
The United States and Nepal Cricket Boards have been suspended in recent months and while the focus in Zimbabwe appears to be on a Commission of Inquiry into the ZC instituted by the Sports Commission, an explosive time bomb, with far-reaching consequences for the game than the Warriors expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, is ticking towards the destruction of the local game in the corridors of the ICC right now.