The game is on its feet: Chingoka

THE Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), the government-appointed supreme sports body, last week refused to register Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC)’s new constitution and subsequently extended the union’s interim committee’s tenure by another four months. The development comes

almost exactly a year after a boardroom fallout that reflected the crisis in the game. This week IndependentSport’s DARLINGTON MAJONGA (DM) spoke to ZC interim chairman Peter Chingoka (PC) about these and other issues.

DM: The SRC has extended your interim committee’s tenure by another four months to December 31, making it a year without a substantive board at Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). What in a nutshell does it tell us about the state of the game in the country?

PC: The best way to judge the state of any game is to see how the teams are performing. Last month Zimbabwe won the Bank Alfalah Cup after beating Bangladesh.

Over the period you are referring to, Zimbabwe has continued to send out competitive teams to fulfil all its fixtures outside the Test commitments following the decision by the ZC board to deliberately suspend participation in the longer version of the game to give the young side experience.

DM: Are we assured that come January 1 2007, a substantive ZC board will be in place and all the problems that have dogged cricket will be confined to history?

PC: To the extent that the process we are engaged in now involves other parties such as the SRC, we are reluctant to give a unilateral assurance on a timeframe.

DM: The SRC refused to endorse ZC’s draft constitution last week, leading to the extension of your interim term. How do you feel about the development?

PC: The constitution was adopted unanimously by the provincial associations, who are the stakeholders. We are now waiting to hear from the SRC which sections of the new constitution the SRC would like us to reconsider. Once we have the SRC letter, we will put the issue back to the same stakeholders.

DM: A provision in your draft constitution empowers the Minister of Sport to appoint seven of ZC’s 12-member board. Why do you think it’s necessary to involve politicians when cricket stakeholders are capable of making their own choices?

PC: We gave the rationale when we announced that stakeholders had adopted the constitution. For the avoidance of doubt, the provision of the ministerial appointment of seven people to the new ZC board is to augment specialist skills, professions and experience that may not have come through the provincial structures.

DM: The government has a bad record of appointing to key positions — for example at parastatals — people whose competence has left a lot to be desired. Do cricket stakeholders trust that government, through the Minister of Sport, would choose the best people to run the game?

PC: The stakeholders who unanimously adopted the ZC constitution trust the government and so came up with that position.

DM: Now that the draft constitution is yet to be accepted by the SRC, pending the redrafting of some clauses, what becomes of ZC’s new 10 provinces created on the basis of the new constitution? And the elections the provinces had already held?

PC: The 10 provinces were not created on the basis of the new constitution, but in fulfilling the SRC recommendation that all national sports associations should devolve along the country’s 10 administrative provinces.

The provincial elections were held in compliance with the terms of reference under which the interim committee was set up.

DM: It’s almost exactly a year since the abortive annual general meeting of September 12 2005 that fanned the crisis in cricket. Have you addressed all the concerns that led to the fallout among board members because of the meeting?

PC: In fact, the annual general meeting was successfully completed with the chairman’s and managing director’s reports and the accounts adopted unanimously. It was actually the subsequent board meeting that was queried in respect of quorum.

Having pointed that out, I would like to emphasise that I am now the chairman of an interim committee that was appointed by the SRC to implement specific terms of reference. This we have done and are now working out the constitutional issue with the SRC.

DM: One of the major concerns was the ZC annual report, which indicated the union had incurred a massive loss. How is the situation likely to be this year considering that Zimbabwe have not been involved in the lucrative Test arena since January?

PC: As I said earlier, the accounts were adopted unanimously and those in the know are aware of the fact that we work on a four-year cycle based on receipts from the ICC Cricket World Cup tournaments.

The second half of that cycle generally presents financial challenges exacerbated this year by not playing Test matches and thereby losing out on related revenue.

However, the final results will be released at the appropriate time.

DM: In March you announced a local audit firm had been appointed to investigate ZC accounts that had been queried by some stakeholders. Has the audit been completed and when will the findings be presented to stakeholders and the public?

PC: The audit is underway and a statement will be issued when it is completed.

DM: There has been a lot of concern over the state of domestic cricket. How long do you envisage it will take to bring the game back to its feet and what measures have you taken to achieve this?

PC: The game is on its feet. We are fulfilling all our one-day international commitments under the ICC Future Tours Programme.

Of course, in our continuing endeavour to improve the standard of the game, we will continue to review our domestic structures as we did at the fruitful technical and player welfare committee workshop last month, whose plans will be unveiled shortly.

DM: When do you think Zimbabwe will be ready to resume their Test commitments?

PC: We are working with the ICC on this issue with the aim of resuming in the 2007/8 season. In order to do this, we believe we need to play 10 to 12 unofficial three/four-day matches. The youngsters are coping with the shorter version but need more exposure to the longer version.

We will confirm the actual dates as we monitor our progress.

DM: Last but not least, how do you rate Zimbabwe’s chances in the ICC Champions Trophy preliminary round against Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh next month?

PC: We hope we can use the positive performance against Bangladesh as a platform. We are preparing hard for the ICC Champions Trophy, with the incoming tour by the Australian Academy underway now and the forthcoming tour to South Africa being the last stages of that preparation.