VISITING International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman Shashank Manohar has given Zimbabwean cricket the thumbs up despite skirting issues of finances while addressing journalists in Harare yesterday.
Manohar arrived in Zimbabwe this week, three months after the ICC announced it will inject an improved financial package of US$94 million into the African country’s cricket board over a 10-year cycle.
The former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) boss said Zimbabwe had “huge potential”, and showed guarded optimism over the country’s future and financial accountability.
“I cannot disclose modality of things,” Manohar said when asked to elaborate on the US$94 million grant.
“When things work out we will come back and let you know.”
The recent appointment of Faisal Haisnan as Zimbabwe Cricket’s managing director has been viewed in some quarters of the cricketing world as a move by the ICC board to ensure tighter financial control in Zimbabwe.
Haisanan, a Pakistani national, is the ICC’s former finance chief.
Manohar, however, dismissed the notion of ICC involvement, saying the decision to hire Haisnan was entirely that of the Zimbabwean board.
“It’s not a decision of the ICC,” he said. “It’s a decision taken by ZC because Faisal has worked for ICC for 12 years. He is coming to put ZC in proper shape. He is the best man and I believe it is the best decision taken by ZC.”
Queried further over his take on Zimbabwe’s financial ethics record, Manohar replied:
“I’m an optimistic person, not a pessimist. All issues were discussed. I will come back to you once everything is sorted.”
Meanwhile, ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani heaped praise on Manohar, describing him as a “friend” of Zimbabwe.
“His sincerity is unquestionable in as far as helping Zimbabwe is concerned,” said Mukuhlani.
“Our problems are well chronicled. Everyone understands the nature of our problems. He has been a friend of ZC and our country since he was chairman of the BCCI. He is a good friend as chairman of the ICC. It’s a historic moment for our board that he has come to Zimbabwe. He has desire to help Zimbabwe come out of its challenges. I’d like to thank him and the ICC in entirety for the support they have given Zimbabwe.”
Speaking on the Zimbabwean team’s gratifying change on fortune as suggested by the historic one-day series win in Sri Lanka, and then the gusty performance in the lost Test match, Mukuhlani paid tribute to his board, which was elected into office in August 2015.
“I don’t believe in luck, neither do I believe in coincidence,” he said.
“Everything is designed to work the way it has happened. We’ve done a whole lot of changes: governance, management, players, welfare. The only missing thing was that the changes had not been quantified in terms of results.”
Also present at yesterday’s Press conference was Zimbabwe’s Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane, Sports and Recreation Commission chairman Edward Siwela and ZC boss Mukuhlani together with his MD Haisnan.
Manohar has also met the country’s two vice-presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, during his five-day official visit.
Hlongwane, meanwhile, allayed security fears in Zimbabwe, which yesterday appeared to have nearly secured rights to host the World Cup qualification tournament next year.
Zimbabwe is also set to hold general elections in the same year, which many fear could trigger a wave of violence throughout the country.
“Zimbabwe is the safest country in the world. Well all know that,” declared Hlongwane. “There is no need for anxiety on the part of anybody. The issue of security is an issue we will put in writing to him (Manohar). There is no need to fear, especially for an event of the kind of sporting nature as this one.”
Manohar’s visit to Zimbabwe is the second inside six months by the head of a major international sporting discipline.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino also came to the country in February in a high-profile visit that was globally seen as part of a well-orchestrated campaign to oust long-serving African football boss Issa Hayatou.
Hayatou’s subsequent electoral defeat in March was engineered by an alliance of the continent’s football leaders, including Zimbabwe’s Phillip Chiyangwa, who were said to have the backing of Infantino.