BRENDAN TAYLOR, arguably the player with the biggest international profile in this country, described the International Cricket Council’s suspension of Zimbabwe as heartbreaking.
He could not have used a better description to describe the dramatic events that unfolded at the ICC annual meeting in London, England, on Thursday.
“The Zimbabwe (Sports and Recreation Commission) has no Government (background) yet our chairman is an MP,’’ he tweeted. “Hundreds of honest people, players and support staff, ground staff, totally devoted to ZC, out of a job, just like that.”
Taylor knows very well that without funding from the ICC, which pours in about US$19,4 million into Zimbabwe Cricket every year, the domestic game simply collapses.
That’s the grim reality of being a Test nation, it comes with huge costs to support the structures and the personnel, including the players, and for countries like Zimbabwe, the ICC funding is worth its weight in gold.
It also means money is available to fund the campaign by the Lady Chevrons, who are in the middle of trying to qualify for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup for the first time in their history, after clearing the first stage at home a few months ago.
They have been waiting for the final qualifier in Scotland next month, but as per the ruling handed down by the ICC on Thursday, which outlawed any international matches involving representatives from this country until their decision is reviewed, these gallant cricketers might see a golden chance being brutally taken away from them.
It also looks like the Chevrons, who missed the recent ICC Cricket World Cup in England, for the first time since they started fighting for a slot at this tournament in 1982, will also not be allowed to play in the ICC Twenty20 qualifiers in October.
The ICC say they detected interference, in the way cricket is being managed in this country, after the Sports Commission suspended the Tavengwa Mukuhlani executive and replaced it with an interim leadership.
The global cricket controlling body wants the suspension of the Mukuhlani executive nullified pending a review of their decision to suspend Zimbabwe Cricket in October this year.
There is no doubt that the Sports Commission have an oversight role, to ensure that sports associations are served by individuals who put sport, and not their selfish interests, first, and they are empowered by an Act of Parliament to come in and address the situation when they feel something isn’t right.
Issues related to alleged abuse of funds by administrators, while domestic cricket suffers and doesn’t flourish to match the potential it has, have stalked the game for a very long time.
But, after the events on Thursday, there is need for some cool heads because, as we fear, there could be a danger that whatever good the Sports Commission are trying to do, in their clean-up exercise in domestic cricket, could be lost in the darkness that now looks set to engulf the game.
The grim possibilities — including, but not limited to, an exodus of players who now have a right to cancel their contracts and, like Chris Gayle, before he returned for one final swan song with the Windies, play as players-for-hire in the many domestic tournaments that have sprouted around the world — are too ghastly to even contemplate.
The damage that could be inflicted by such a scenario, on a game that has been limping for some time now, could have far-reaching consequences we could take another 20 years to rebuild everything if we are not careful.
It’s also important to note that Zimbabwe cricket has, for some time now, been a victim of the same political machinations that have seen the country being hammered, left, right and centre by those opposed to the current political leadership in the past two decades.
That is why we haven’t seen any reciprocal tours between Zimbabwe and England for more than 15 years now, which have cost domestic cricket millions in potential earnings, and this country was forced to withdraw from the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in England in 2009 because the British Government refused to issue visas to the local cricketers.
Opposition politician David Coltart’s role, in advising Andy Flower to make that World Cup protest against what he termed “the death of democracy in this country,’’ and persuading England cricketers not to come to Zimbabwe for their 2003 World Cup match, because doing so would be viewed as endorsement for the Zanu-PF Government, is well documented.
It is against that background that we implore all the players in the current saga not to fall into a trap, which then gives those countries that have been using cricket to fight their political battles against us, a reason for them to destroy our game.
We shouldn’t give them the opportunity, they have been waiting for, all these years, to take away our Test status, using the pretext that we have failed to iron out our differences here at home, because — as everyone with a good knowledge of this game knows — there are a number of countries waiting to take our place, and all the funding that comes with it.
This is a sport that drew 15 000 at one World Cup qualifier at Harare Sports Club last year, confirming its rise to become the second most popular sporting discipline in this country, and we can’t destroy all that simply because we have some domestic boardroom issues that we can’t sort out.
Our Chevrons might be misfiring now, just like what the Warriors did at the 2019 AFCON finals, but we can’t destroy our cricket, or our football, because our national teams aren’t doing well.
We urge all those in this cricket stand-off to put the country first because, after everything has been said and done, it’s all that matters.