Latest from Zimbabwe
I know many of us here are faithful and vocal supporters of the "reform" in Zimbabwean cricket that is combatting "racism". Here is more info on some of the activities of their Board. Sounds like a ZC post is a really cushy job to have!
ZC chairman Peter Chingoka: under fire ...again © Getty Images
In 2004 Zimbabwe cricket endured a wretched year, both on and off the field. The hope was that in 2005 things could only get better. Sadly, less than a fortnight into the new year, and it looks set to be another tough 12 months.
The defeat by Bangladesh at Chittagong confirmed, if anyone needed it, that Zimbabwe are now officially the worst Test side. Given that in the last two or three years they have lost more than an entire team, that's hardly surprising. But a convincing drubbing by a side which hadn't won any of their previous 34 Tests – and had lost 31 of them – raised concerns that when Zimbabwe meet one of the stronger countries, the results could be really embarrassing. The thorny subject of the integrity of Test cricket might rear its ugly head again before long.
But in fairness to the young Zimbabwe side, the defeat was not unexpected. Their return to top-flight cricket was never going to be easy. What is a turn-up is the pickle in which Zimbabwe Cricket now finds itself.
When the Board was cleared of racism by the ICC in November, many hoped it drew a line under what had become known as the Heath Streak saga and that Zimbabwe cricket would move on. Sadly, it hasn't turned out that way.
Two things have antagonised large numbers of the rank and file who make up the game inside the country. One is the rebranding exercise which converted the old Zimbabwe Cricket Union into ZC; the other concerns the activities of the board.
The rebranding – the cost of which is much discussed and never agreed on – stirred up considerable (and surprising) antagonism. The rebellion against the board's move started in Mashonaland, where the existing committee was booted out and a new, and more hostile, one elected. The anger stemmed from the fact that the rebranding exercise came at a time when Zimbabwe cricket was almost broke.
The ZC board denied that it had cost anything, insisting that it was underwritten by sponsorship, but that cut little ice with opponents. Rumours that Peter Chingoka's wife had been involved in the design of the logo surfaced, although they were vigorously denied. But then Chingoka appeared to overplay his hand when he claimed that the unrest was being fuelled by individuals trying to cover up their own corruption. Much as had happened during the Heath Streak affair, when Chingoka repeatedly referred to racist plots to overthrow the ZCU board but never produced any evidence of them, this appeared to be a case of slinging mud in the hope that some would stick.
But the Mashonaland board stuck to its guns, withdrawing from the Logan Cup - and at the weekend its club sides also boycotted the national competition. Mashonaland have always been a strong supporter of the Zimbabwean board, giving their stance added impact. Given that it is unable to play the race card this time round, this might be a battle ZC finds it much harder to win.
The second contentious issue is the appointment last week of Ozias Bvute as Zimbabwe Cricket's new managing director. Bvute's track record and history are well known and don't need repeating here. But given that he was openly censured by the ICC hearing for his activities – one of the few parts of the ruling in which the board was criticised – his appointment was hardly likely to pour oil on troubled waters.
Within hours of the announcement, rumours were circulating that Bvute was on a salary of £7500 a month – the average player in the Zimbabwe team is thought to earn about 10% of this. There was considerable outrage, and ZC hardly helped its own position by denying the rumours but then refusing to reveal what the actual figure was. Sources close to the board suggest that it is nearer to £4000 a month, but that travel allowances and expenses inflate this.
The rumours about Bvute's remuneration came hard on the heels of a heated AGM last August when it was revealed that Chingoka had been paid a bonus of £50,000, a massive amount in Zimbabwean terms, for his services to cricket. It was also revealed that the board had paid for all its officials' wives to travel to Australia for the VB Series the previous winter.
Against a backdrop of cash-strapped clubs and schools scraping by with almost no new equipment – this weekend one newspaper reported of a club game cancelled because the two sides could only muster one bat between them – the alleged excesses of the board proved too much for some, fuelling the unrest and ultimate revolt against the way the game is being run in Zimbabwe.
Last year Zimbabwe Cricket successfully fought a battle against what Chingoka claimed was a plot by unnamed shady third parties. This year, the opposition is out in the open and very much from within. The only similarity is that once again the loser will be cricket.
Edited on, January 12, 2005, 4:20 PM GMT, by rafiq.