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Wither Zimbabwean cricket

Independent SportView Itai Dzamara

I WAS still faced with the problem of what to put down for this column when I reached home last Friday to listen to an evening radio news bulletin that had an unusual crick

et lead story – “Heath Streak dismissed”.

The Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) had sacked captain Heath Streak after the all-rounder had issued an ultimatum demanding a change in the national team selection panel.

It must have been a great surprise for Zimbabweans to hear about Streak’s clash with the ZCU, moreso as it culminated in his sacking. What with the hero status that the Matabeleland-groomed player assumed last year when he decided to stand by the ZCU during the contentious debate over Zimbabwe co-hosting the World Cup.

Streak’s fallout with the ZCU followed our publication in recent weeks of two stories regarding former national team players Bryan Strang and his older brother Paul on their differences with the union.

“It seems you have to be a yes man and be a puppet on a string to play for the ZCU,” said Paul.

Whilst Streak’s downfall is a manifestations of the ill-advised quota system that is based purely on race, the Strangs’ fate epitomises yet another pandemic currently afflicting local cricket – the systematic gagging of players by the ZCU.

These twin-evils have the potential to ravage local cricket which has enjoyed huge sponsorship. It could also dent its seemingly progressive trend and professional conduct.

Senior players -Andrew Flower and Henry Olonga – openly mourned the “death of democracy in Zimbabwe” during the World Cup last year. They met the fate that anyone who dares speak out objectively in local cricket meets. The rest is history.

The quota system currently being used by the ZCU seeks to manipulate team selection on racial grounds. At least four of the national team players have to be non-white. The use of black players not ready to play at the highest level has created controversy in other sports especially rugby. If not managed properly it has the potential to degenerate into a racial dispute which chases away sponsors and players.

On top of that, the ZCU has in place a selection panel comprising six members that has courted controversy owing to the inclusion of dubious personalities.

By way of comparison, South Africa, which has resisted calls to adopt a similar quota system, is in the top three of world cricketing nations both in terms of development and national team performances.

Zimbabwe is the only one among the 10 Test playing nations with such a system and the highest number of selectors.

Streak, who had been on the panel of selectors in his capacity as captain, wanted the panel members reduced from six to four and also demanded that the panel comprises people with playing experience. His demands expose, by way of implication, the shortcomings he has observed which adversely affect the selection process.

The captain consulted with his colleagues before making his demands, inside sources told us this week. It is only a matter of time before what remains of national cricket vanishes.

Food for thought

IndependentSport’s lead story last week titled “Cheating alleged in Under 20s” drew a lot of attention. The most immediate which I missed (I always enjoy such episodes) was the storming of our newsroom by the Young Warriors’ officials – coaches Nelson Matongorere, Phillip Mbofana and manager Simon Makaza.

I welcomed them to use this column to explain to the nation their position. “No, let’s leave the matter,” they finally requested. Food for thought!

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