The Herald is Zimbabwe’s one of the most-prominent daily Newspapers. It published a piece on their back page on Friday morning (23 March), leveling its national team’s heartbreaking defeat against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the death of cricket in the country.
“Out of respect for 15 million Zimbabweans around the world and 15,000 fans who packed Harare Sport Club to capacity, still being tormented by the dumping of the ‘Choking Chevrons’ from the World Cup from a rag-tag team of amateurs from the United Arab Emirates, we won’t show you any picture on this front page from that disaster but just this black background to mourn the day our cricket died, a slow and painful death,” it read.
Thanks @HeraldZimbabwe... I quote... ‘rag tag team of amateurs’ @EmiratesCricket Nice use of language to describe us... Sorry you didn’t qualify for the WC but at least give us some credit for how we played! pic.twitter.com/vhNhZNgSid
— Dougie Brown (@dougie1brown) March 23, 2018
Throughout the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, Zimbabwe had a consistent run. In the group stages, they were unbeaten and following the 104-run victory over Ireland in their first Super-Six game, the equations were quite simple for the hosts — beat either of the West Indies or UAE and seal a spot in next year’s World Cup in England.
Well, unfortunately, the Zimbabweans faltered, big time.
However, now the question is, what are the consequences of this defeat? What exactly is the road ahead for Zimbabwe Cricket from here?
Currently, politically, Zimbabwe as a country is going through a great deal of changes. The 37 years of dictatorship of Robert Mugabe has recently come to an end. Though this freedom is celebrated widely across the nation, but the entire administrative system is in a mess right now, which has its effect on the financial system.
Zimbabwe’s economy is almost on the verge of being crashed and it has a direct effect in the development of cricket in the country.
Well, Zimbabwe Cricket’s (ZC) present financial status is not hidden from the public. Earlier this year, ZC had asked the ICC for a postponement on loan repayments as they struggle to generate revenue. The decision is still pending. According to ESPNCricinfo, ZC currently owes the ICC US$3 million — out of a loan of US$6 million.
Furthermore, the board is also dealing with a salary crisis.
It is understood that most of the Zimbabwe cricketers are yet to get their match fees for the tour of Sri Lanka that took place in July as well as for the recent series in Bangladesh and UAE, whereas some of the support staffs have only got 40% of their salaries until February 2018.
Now, with no World Cup next year, will these unpaid or underpaid cricketers and coaching staffs stick around? Remember, the Zimbabwe squad which featured in the Qualifiers had nine cricketers, who age 30 or above, which includes experienced pros like skipper Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor. After failing to secure a place in next year’s mega event, most of them will not play a World Cup ever. Also, with Zimbabwe, they don’t exactly have a promising Test career either.
In fact, prior to the qualifiers, several players had confirmed that, if they fail to qualify, then they may consider the option of pursuing their careers outside the country, mostly through Kolpak deals. Financially, that looks like a secure option for these professional cricketers.
But if ZC let them go (legally they cannot stop) then the standard of cricket in this African nation will fall, significantly.
In hindsight, the one and only hope for ZC to recover from the cash crunch is generating revenue through broadcasting rights. For that, they need to host top-class Test playing nations. But with no World Cup berth next year, there are not enough Test nations, who are willing to tour Zimbabwe right now.
It is learned, later this year Pakistan will play two Tests in Zimbabwe, which is likely to be followed by a tri-series, adding Australia as the third team. But to organise a series of this magnitude, ZC needs the ICC loan decision in their favour.
Hence, The Herald’s opinion of the death of Zimbabwe cricket doesn’t seem like an exaggeration at this point in time.
Did ICC consider these severe consequences while shrinking its World Cup to a broadcaster-friendly 10-team event? Highly unlikely.
We all know what happened to Kenya cricket following their dream campaign in the 2003 World Cup. Let’s hope Zimbabwe will not suffer the same fate.