‘Zim’s ICC full membership remains galvanised’

AS Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) endeavour to resurrect the game through various initiatives, they still face hurdles in terms of game-time against the leading teams. Our Senior Sports Reporter Enock Muchinjo (EM) this week spoke to ZC chairman Peter Chingoka (PC) about this and other issues.

EM: You have been out of the limelight for quite a while. What have you been up to?

PC: The fact is that I have fewer requests for interviews now than I had in the past, and so it appears as if I have been out of the limelight.

I have been doing three things: continuing to run the sport and getting more time for my business and also my personal life.

EM: What do you make of the latest developments in Zimbabwe Cricket, the return of players and such people as Heath Streak, Dave Houghton and Alistair Campbell to the fold?

PC: You may remember us saying all along that our doors are always open and that our objective has always been to make sure that the game is accessible to all Zimbabweans regardless of race, creed or gender.

Thus, since the disputes stemming back to 2004, we have had players, former administrators and coaches returning, at different intervals, to offer their services again.

EM: Do you thing there are equal opportunities now for players at the national teams level? Don’t you foresee another damaging potential selection dispute?

PC: What we have now is what has always been our objective because that is best practice: all eligible citizens competing for places in their country’s team.

At the end of the day, the side that takes to the park must be the best eleven Zimbabweans available for selection. There will always be disputes over selection because it involves picking some and leaving out others or selecting or dropping an additional spinner –– a question of the technical balance –– as was the case with the Australia Test team in England last month. However, the ZC board has faith in its national selection panel.

EM: What do you think of the current national team? And your assessment of the Bangladesh series?

PC: It is a side with a lot of promise and potential to be successful performers. Discussions with our recently appointed coaching authorities Dave Houghton and Andy Waller have vindicated this, with both of them impressed by the surfeit of talent on display.
I thought we should have won the Bangladesh series and wrapped it up 3-2 or 4-1. However, at various times things were in disarray with our batting, bowling or fielding. But be that as it may, there were positives such as the team posting plus-300 scores and brilliant individual performances such as Charles Coventry’s record-tying knock and Hamilton Masakadza’s century plus Elton Chigumbura’s all-round performances, to mention just a few.

EM: How do you see the new spirit in the Zimbabwe Cricket family?

PC: What we have now is what we have always had; which is a positive spirit.

EM: How do you respond to views that the developments and changes in ZC are meant to repair the damages of your administration?

PC: The ZC Board has always insisted on an open door policy and has, at all times, welcomed and utilised to the benefit of the game the best people who have walked through that door.

EM: What’s your comment on the franchise system?

PC: The system has just started operating. We are encouraging devolution to the provinces and creating, on the playing field, tighter competition, while off it, the local communities are claiming ownership of the game.

EM: How soon do you think Zimbabwe can return to the Test arena?

PC: Flowing from the recommendations to the International Cricket Council Task Team on Zimbabwe’s return to Test cricket, the frame date was “within two years” from the ICC meeting of March 2009, but that will be influenced by our results in the next few months. The exact date of our return to Test play will be decided by the ZC Cricket Committee which will make a report on that to the ZC board which board will, in turn, advise the ICC.

EM: Recently India and West Indies were scheduled to tour Zimbabwe but those tours are off. What really happened? Are you happy with the amount of game time we are getting against the leading nations? Have the likes of India, who always supported ZC, deserted you?

PC: ZC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) continue to have very special and very strong relations. The tour by India to Zimbabwe is not off but was merely pushed out to another time when we can tie up a triangular with a third country in order to maximize the commercial revenues attached to a tour by India. Additionally, we are continuing to work extremely closely with the BCCI in various other areas.
As for the West Indies tour, this had initially been penciled in for when the side was going to the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa but at the scheduled time, there was a player dispute in the West Indies. However, the board president Dr Julian Hunte who incidentally chaired the ICC Task Team on Zimbabwe’s return to Test cricket, has promised several tour exchanges with Zimbabwe.
The game time we have with other nations is governed by the ICC Future Tours Programme, and we are working at getting incremental tours over and above the programme.

EM: Do you harbour any hopes that soon the likes of England, Australia and New Zealand will soon start to fulfill tours against Zimbabwe?

PC: The countries that you mention have excellent relations with us at board level. However, their non-touring has been dictated by their governments which issued travel bans. Our relations with Cricket Australia for example have seen them helping us in our staff development in various spheres of the game. We have had players, coaches and staffers attending courses there. 
This year alone, the relay has continued with players such as Admire Manyumwa, Prince Masvaure, Forster Mutizwa and promising 18-year old spin bowler Natsayi Mushangwe attending the High Performance Centre in Brisbane. National coach Walter Chawaguta was attached to the Australia coach Tim Nielsen during their ODI series against Pakistan in Dubai this year.

EM: Zimbabwe’s standing as a Full Member of the ICC, is it still cemented?

PC: Our position as a Full Member country of the ICC remains galvanised. All that has happened is that we have withdrawn from playing Test Cricket and, as earlier stated, we are aiming at the earliest return.
In so far as all the other Full Members are concerned, we have their unwavering support. In my earlier answers, I demonstrated the close bonds between ZC and the Australia, India and West Indies boards. It is worthy to note that Cricket South Africa is right now working on a blue-print following our visit to them and the reciprocal visit by their coordinating committee specifically chosen to help us return to Test cricket. The blueprint is being finalised now by their board and will attach special emphasis on our return to Test cricket at the shortest possible time. It will embrace facets of our cricket from age-groups through to the Test arena.
At the same time, we are also playing our part as an ICC Full Member by helping to upgrade standards in member countries such as Kenya and by sending our sides to age-group tournaments in South Africa where they play against other African countries.
It is all part of world cricket wanting to have stronger playing countries. And we are not an island in that.

Enock Muchinjo

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