THE Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) this week made a last-minute bid to lure back rebel white players by offering former skipper Heath Streak a contract ahead of the presentation tomorrow of
findings of a racism investigation.
Streak has reportedly snubbed the offer.
None of the senior rebels will return to national duty even if the International Cricket Union (ICC)’s report on the bitter racism row were to be in their favour unless the “real cancer” is removed, according to senior player Stuart Carlisle.
ZCU spokesman Lovemore Banda this week confirmed the union was negotiating with the players to come back into the national fold.
“All players have been offered contracts as per our policy that the door remains open. So it’s up to them to take them up. I understand from our human resources manager that there are negotiations going on with the players, but since it’s an issue between an employer and an employee he couldn’t tell me who the players are,” Banda said.
However, Carlisle said neither himself nor any of the rebels he knew had been approached by the ZCU over the new contracts.
Streak could not be reached for comment as he was said to be away in Kariba.
Sources close to the dispute said the ZCU ploy was to entice Streak in the hope that he would pave the way for the return of the other rebels, whose walkout in April compelled the ICC to suspend Zimbabwe’s Test matches.
But the contract had a clause that would have “nailed and fixed” Streak, the sources claimed, without divulging the contents of the contract.
Streak sparked off the row when he was stripped of his captaincy after issuing the ZCU an ultimatum demanding a change to what he perceived as a racially motivated selection policy or else he “would resign from all forms of cricket”.
Fourteen other white players walked out on the ZCU after the union refused to give in to their demand to have Streak reinstated, leading to the acrimonious termination of their contracts.
“We never wanted this to be about racism but we were really worried about what was going on. We didn’t know where our future lay because some players were deliberately sidelined to make room for non-white players,” Carlisle told IndependentSport this week.
“It’s sad the situation appeared that way but we had tried in vain to meet with ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka not just because we disagreed with the selection policy. We wanted the board’s transgressions addressed and until this cancer is removed none of the senior rebels will return.”
The ZCU argues that the rebel players’ concerns were not genuine but racist, because they did not want to play under new skipper Tatenda Taibu. The ZCU also claimed the white players were not happy with the inclusion of upcoming black players in the team, which is why their ultimatum had no black players included.
The ZCU board member responsible for racial integration Ozias Bvute told this paper a fortnight ago that he believed there was a third force goading the white players into revolting.
“I think Bvute is famous for making claims without evidence. It’s absolute rubbish for anyone to claim that we walked out on the ZCU because we were scared of upcoming young black players. The third force has been invented to divert the press and attention from real issues,” Carlisle said.
“We didn’t want to involve the black players at first because we wanted to protect them from victimisation. We later offered the guys to join us but the ZCU made three non-white players who wanted to fight with us sign letters not to join us. All the non-white players understand where we are coming from.
“Sadly the ZCU refused to speak to us on a mature level and on cricket issues only.”
However, Carlisle said he believed there were black cricketers good enough to make the national team on merit.
“There are certainly a lot of talented black players capable of playing for the country. But as we have seen over the past six months the boys have lost 13 consecutive one-dayers because they are not competitive and lack experience. It’s not their fault because they were forced into the situation,” the 32-year-old batsman said.
Carlisle said the rebel players were worried, besides the “quota system selection policy”, by the composition of the selection committee and the “transgressions of the board”.
“Cricket is a complicated game and we wanted people with at least four or five years first-class experience to be the selectors, whether white or black. We had three selectors who had never played cricket instead,” Carlisle said.
“But the main problem is that there are people who want to cling to power. The administrators have done a lot against the development of cricket. An entire board wastes money by going to Australia and Chingoka is paid a lot of pounds.
“All this at the expense of development of the game. Only recently Queens had to cancel their match because they had no equipment, so how are the administrators developing the game?
“This is worrying and it has to be addressed because our future lies in cricket,” Carlisle said.
The ICC appointed a two-man panel to investigate the racism charges in Zimbabwe cricket but the probe was prematurely adjourned in Harare as the protagonists all threatened to pull out if their wishes were not granted.
The rebel players refused to give oral evidence before the panel in the presence of Bvute, fellow board member Macsood Ebrahim and Mashonaland Cricket Association chairman Tavengwa Mkuhlani because they “intimidated them”.
“Personally, I’m not scared of Bvute although I know he’s tried to use certain means to intimidate us. We only refused to testify in his presence as a matter of principle because the ICC had before the hearing stipulated that,” Carlisle said.
The ICC had to rely on written submissions from both sides and the report on the panel’s findings will be released tomorrow.
“The ZCU confused the whole inquiry and the panel couldn’t stand that. I’m not sure what the report will say but should the report be in our favour it will be a big advantage for cricket and there could be light at the end of the tunnel,” Carlisle said.
“However we have appealed to the ICC as we believe the investigation was basically flawed because we would have wanted to give oral evidence. All the same, about 12 people including some blacks sent written submissions and I think (former ZCU managing director) Vince Hogg’s evidence is important.”
Banda said the ZCU would welcome unconditionally all the players whatever the outcome of the racism probe, adding that the union was also looking forward to the arbitration process that would solve the other issues apart from racism.
But Carlisle said: “The door is shut on us. We all tried to come back when Sri Lanka were here but only about four guys were chosen for the A side. And one director contacted (then national team) coach Geoff Marsh and quizzed him why he was coaching the rebels.”
Only three young rebels earlier accepted ZCU contracts because “they were facing financial problems”, sources claim.