Independent Sports View – With Enoch Muchinjo
“OUR doors are open if any of them wants to come back”. This is the stance of Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman Peter Chingoka, who
was retained for yet another term at the union’s annual general meeting (AGM) a fortnight ago.
Utter hypocrisy! One is tempted to believe. For, Chingoka and his lieutenants have done the very opposite. They have virtually shut the doors on the dissenting 15 white players, probably marking a sad end to an era of Zimbabwean cricket.
But beware of remaining in the fools’ paradise while Chingoka and his colleagues continue with their “gallant performance” of destroying not the rebels, but cricket.
In the same manner they have slammed the door on rebels, the ZCU leadership could have as well shut the door on the chances of finding a remedy to the current crisis crippling the local game. Beyond this, of course, are far-reaching implications such as the possibility of Zimbabwe being virtually booted out of the elite group of Test-playing nations. A further analysis of the situation along this line of thought inevitably lays bare the reality that all this ZCU leadership is doing is dragging the game of cricket into an abyss.
The facts have been dominating the news over the past couple of months, but it is vital to underline the importance of television rights revenue that the ZCU would lose in the event that Zimbabwe is stripped of its Test status.
The re-election of Chingoka was a brutal blow to the cause of fair play.
Chingoka was of course reinstated by “his” board, which had the bulk of its members also bouncing back through various means that have raised a lot of controversy within the ZCU.
Now, Chingoka and his colleagues on the board who dragooned the ZCU into its current mess are busy frustrating any meaningful dialogue with the so-called rebel players. The hard-liners bounced back on the board and ignored protests and accusations that the elections were rigged. Their arrogant defiance of public opinion is further proof that they prefer to indulge their own self-interest and power hungry careerism at the expense of a game that is on the verge of collapse.
With the Zimbabwe team in dire straits on the field and not looking likely to be Test material by January, the most logical thing for ZCU would have been to facilitate the return of the experienced players and let the best players win a place on the team. The ZCU leadership should have continued to invest and encourage talent, not racial prejudice. Affirmative action is not necessary. Cream always rises to the top.
Crushing defeats against Indian and South African A sides, with our team offering no resistance at all, must justify a climb-down on the part of the board. This is not a matter of saving face.
It is a matter of saving cricket in Zimbabwe. It is now beyond imagination that the board could offer to resign but we do expect a modicum of responsibility. A decision to soften their stance on the dispute with the former players would have gone some way to redeeming themselves.
But it appears that the ZCU leadership no longer wants the players back and are determined to close this chapter of Zimbabwe cricket. How can there be any agreement when they continue to play frustrating games at the same time calling for arbitration?
So what is the ZCU actually doing? The latest action is to make a sacrificial lamb of the former convenor of selectors Steve Mangongo, widely regarded as being soft and non-political, and pack him out of the way to India. Then, in a move orchestrated to put the final nail in the dissenting players’ coffin, they promoted Macsood Ebrahim as new convenor of selectors. His presence on the selectors’ panel was one of the sticking points in the standoff between the union and the players. Clearly the rhetoric of the ZCU and their actions do not tally.
The immediate future looks bleak for the Zimbabwe team. The political shenanigans of the management do not provide the nurturing environment a young team needs. They have suffered humiliating defeats not only by the great teams like Sri Lanka and Australia but also by second string sides whose players do not even command Test places in their own countries. They must overcome huge psychological hurdles if they are to be competitive.
It is depressing for loyal and staunch followers of the game of cricket to watch the bowling attack being destroyed and the batting order being allowed to crumble.
The pathetic crowd attendance at the India A matches at Harare Sports Club told the whole story. Until the dispute, cricket fans turned up and followed the national team with passion and pride. Now all they can feel is shame as the play on the oval has been superseded by boardroom politics. All people want is the strongest Zimbabwe possible, regardless of skin colour. Look at the way hearts swelled with pride at the exploits of our Olympics medallist Kirsty Coventry.
We always had enough good black players who deserved a place in the team. But the selectors chose others for reasons best known to themselves and created a myopic quota system. Some who played under the quota system are struggling to make it into the current team!
Vince Hogg, the former ZCU managing director, admitted in his farewell speech at the recent AGM that there has been no winner between the union and the players in their dispute. So at last, Hogg reviewed in detail why he quit the union and he evidently didn’t want to continue fighting a futile battle, which the board is doing.
Chingoka seemed to also have it figured out in his speech that the ZCU is almost down and out. He knows he must salvage something from the wreckage. He quoted a source as saying: “When you fall down, make sure that you pick something up while you are still down.” However, he has to realise that unless you rise, there is no point scrambling around for something to pick up.
Chingoka is mucking around in the mire of accusation and recrimination and there is currently nothing for him to pick up.
He could, if he used logic, swallow his pride and pick from the ashes the best Zimbabwe side to the first Test match away to Bangladesh in January. That team must include rebels! That is one of the very few overs still remaining to save cricket from demise. At least that could set everything on the path to recovery.
Otherwise, sooner or later we will be mourning the once thriving game of cricket in this country.
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