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None of them is bigger than cricket


THERE is no doubt that the ruling by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on allegations of racism in local cricket has further divided the Zimbabwe Cri

cket Union (ZCU).

The ZCU would definitely feel vindicated by the ICC verdict, which concluded that there was no evidence of racism in Zimbabwe cricket. On the other hand, the rebels are likely to find comfort in the conclusion that the ZCU’s handling of the matter was maladroit.

Zimbabwe will resume playing Test matches after the tour of Bangladesh next year. That is likely to cause a false sense of satisfaction within the ZCU leadership. It could be used for making claims that all is well in local cricket.

That line of thinking could do well for propaganda reasons. It is a rich vein for self-serving intents. But it is far off the mark in as far as prudence and magnanimity are concerned.

It is clear the row between the ZCU and the rebels had caused antagonism within the national cricket structures. Although the ZCU would want us to believe it is a matter of white versus black, it is necessary to remember that as reported in this paper on several occasions, there are blacks who were up in arms with the ZCU over this issue.

The decision by the ICC definitely won’t be enough to defuse the discontent within the local cricket fraternity. Some accuse the current ZCU leadership of manipulation, intimidation and coercion to remain in power.

Events between April – when the row between the ZCU and rebels started – and now have shown the can of worms within the cricket fraternity. The can of worms which, as admitted by even the ZCU leadership, has been there for several years just waiting for someone to open it.

Reports of how some provincial structures have been trying over the last eight months to denounce ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka and his leadership are a clear sign of the instability that has been insidiously ravaging the cricket fraternity.

Chingoka has been accused of using officials from the president’s office to intimidate provincial leaders in order to remain in power. There have been allegations of abuse of ZCU funds by the board members.

Former ZCU managing director Vince Hogg made startling revelations over his resignation, which bordered on allegations of racism, manipulation and intimidation within local cricket.

Added to this plethora of ills is of course the worrying consistence with which the current national team is losing matches by wide margins.

It would be self-deception for anyone to wish all these unpalatable scenarios away! It would be farcical wishful thinking for anyone to hope that the ICC ruling would miraculously mask all these ills within the cricket fraternity.

It is regrettable that both the ZCU leadership and the dissenting voices have an arrogant approach towards their differences. Each of the sides seems to regard itself as Alpha and Omega of local cricket.

One of the worse things the ZCU could do would be to ride on the excitement brought by the ICC decision, ignore the rebels and ignore the dissenting voices within provincial structures. It would further exacerbate the crisis if the ZCU does the typical human reaction of taking the favourable ruling as a mandate to crack down on the voices of dissent.

Such action by the union would mean instability persisting!

Now, not only does local cricket need stability for the sake of attracting sponsorship, but it also seriously needs it for development purposes. Divided or estranged structures are a stumbling block to development.

It is on that note that it has to be emphasised that neither the current ZCU board nor the current rebels and dissenting voices are bigger than the national sport.

Cricket has been, and still is, under siege because of the actions and decisions of the board and those fighting from the other end. Again, this won’t be solved by the ICC decision. It calls for a pragmatic attempt at facing the problems and searching for a solution.

The ZCU board must start the move by discarding its arrogance and dictatorial tendencies that have seen it create more enemies than friends within the cricket fraternity. There is need for the board to unconditionally invite those among the rebels who are interested to come back to the national team.

The union has to be prepared to listen to the concerns of the players with an open ear, not with preconceived ideas and prejudice.

With the same spirit of magnanimity, the union must embrace the dissenting voices and attempt to obtain consensus that will lay a firm foundation for harmony to prevail.

On the other hand, the rebels have to put their words into action. They have consistently said they have the country at heart and that they would cherish an opportunity to play for the country again. It is necessary that the dissenting players realise how damaging it is to the country’s reputation in international cricket that the national team continues to be everyone’s punch bag.

The players must make genuine moves towards coming back to the national team and save the nation from humiliating defeats. The world has heard their concerns and has accepted some of them as well as sympathised with them. But it is important that another option, of negotiating while playing, has to be tried.

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