THE Zimbabwe national cricket team will today walk onto the pitch hoping to upstage a strong Pakistan side in the first of two T-20 matches.
Sports View of Kevin Mapasure
Everyone in the team today is guaranteed of walking away with US$500 just for appearing, regardless of the performance.
With three One-Day Internationals (ODI) coming up next week, players will each pocket US$1 000 per game for the three matches ahead of the two Test matches where each will get US$2 000 per match.
This means a player who participates in all matches will get US$8 000 in addition to their monthly salaries. Among players likely to pocket this windfall are batsmen Brendan Taylor, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza and all-rounder Elton Chigumbura.
Salaries for centrally contracted (a 12 month contract) players range from US$3 000 for the lowest paid to around US$8 000 for the highest paid per month.
It is a development worth applauding as money issues have over the years threatened the stability of the game in Zimbabwe while also claiming a few scalps in the form of premature retirements or overseas engagements.
Although US$8 000 in a month’s series like the one against Pakistan may not necessarily be big money compared to other Test-playing nations, it remains a very lucrative deal in Zimbabwe’s illiquid economy.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) pays considerably lower because it also gets considerably less than other Test nations and local players should not expect their remuneration to be at par with the Indian, South African and English teams, among others.
However, what is important for now is that the players are happy with what they have been promised and all that is left is for ZC to deliver.
With ZC having satisfied its end of the bargain, the fans will expect the players to deliver on the pitch.
After the new agreement on match fees, the pressure is now on the players to justify the added incentives over and above their monthly salaries, which are way above standard Zimbabwean pay structures.
If this agreement had been reached earlier, players who participated in all matches in all formats of the game this year would have earned US$37 000 in match fees in addition to salaries that range from US$36 000 to US$96 000 a year per player.
But is there any player in the team at the moment who can claim to have played well enough to deserve an extra US$37 000?
Cricket is a game of numbers and the team and individual players’ statistics are quite an indictment.
Out of their 11 ODIs so far this year, Zimbabwe has won just two and lost the rest ahead of six more against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Cricket presents a short career and understandably players need to make as much as they can during that period, but they also need to score lots of runs and claim wickets, and secure victories to justify their rich pickings.
Zimbabwe lost all matches in all formats in the West Indies and failed to compete as batsmen struggled for runs and bowlers struggled with the ball.
They managed to beat Bangladesh in the first of their two Tests losing in the ODI series and drawing the T-20 series.
The five-match ODI series whitewash at the hands of India so far caps the season, but really if they are going to be paid US$22 000 each player as per their initial demand, they need to do a lot better than the six wicket, 58-run, seven wicket, nine wicket and seven wicket defeats.
A home Test draw against Bangladesh is the best achievement so far and that on its own is not deserving of the huge money players are demanding.
It has been impossible not to feel pity for Zimbabwe players who are not on central contracts in as much as it has been impossible not to be frustrated by the way they have failed to perform on numerous occasions.
Among some of their demands, the players want 10% of what ZC realises from World Cups. A quick perusal of the last two global showcases of which the current crop participated in shows that the team was a national embarrassment.
At the 2012 T-20 World Cup in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe lost the first match to the hosts by 82 runs before losing to South Africa by 10 wickets and were home soon.
We do not know how much money ZC makes from World Cups but going by a modest figure of US$2 million, it means if the players got their wish, the 15 who participate at the global showcase would share US$200 000.
Securing tours with top nations is not easy anymore and ZC has to literally beg the big guns to tour Zimbabwe.
For several months, the India tour hung in the balance with murmurs the world champions were not keen on touring Zimbabwe.
Some nations, we have been told, complain of Zimbabwe’s lack of competition which renders tours against them unsalable.
Countries make money from TV rights and if the series is an expected miss-match, there is bound to be lack of public interest and consequently lack of buyers.
The players need to realise the huge responsibility they have if the game is to thrive, never mind ZC’s own flaws, and while they make monetary demands, we also demand results.
There are other ways to secure riches out of cricket; play well internationally and get a call-up to the Indian Premier League where hundreds of thousands of dollars are earned by those who play in the lucrative league.