CRICKET’S LIFELINE

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
JUST four months after coming face-to-face with its Armageddon moment — in which the grim prospect of suspension from the International Cricket Council loomed large — Zimbabwe has been struck off the ICC agenda dealing with member nations in a crisis.

It’s yet another massive boardroom coup for the country’s second biggest sporting discipline.

What this means is that:

The country’s future as a Full Member of the ICC — a key requirement for the unlocking of millions of dollars that come from the world’s cricket governing body, which is the lifeblood of a sport with some crippling operational costs — is now guaranteed.

The threat of a possible stripping of Zimbabwe’s Test status, which would have been the inevitable consequence that would have come with suspension from the ICC’s family of nations, is no longer casting its dark shadow on the sport.

The grim scenario, which might have effectively collapsed the sport in this country with many of the game’s star players — including the likes of Brendan Taylor, Kyle Jarvis, Sikandar Raza and Graeme Cramer — being forced to terminate their commitments to Zimbabwe Cricket and taking their talents elsewhere to eke out a living, has been avoided.

The country’s main cricket grounds, which were given a huge facelift worth millions of dollars ahead of the hosting of the ICC World Cup Qualifier earlier this year, will not turn into ghost facilities because of player-flight given that the future of the game has been guaranteed.

The key area of development, the nursery that drip-feeds the game with players who end up representing the country in this sport, will not be destroyed because of lack of funding with teenage cricketers — both male and female — no longer faces a bleak future or being forced to take their budding talents elsewhere.

The country will continue to get its full quota of financial injection from the ICC, a key factor in ensuring players and staff are paid their dues and also to bankroll the cost of hosting international teams and also fulfilling tours.

Had things gone otherwise the ICC annual funding to the domestic game would have been reduced from $73 million to just $8 million inflicting a mortal blow on cricket in this country and plunging it into darkness.

Fresh funds being pumped into Zimbabwe Cricket will no longer be burdened by the massive debt, both from source to receipt, leaving the domestic game without the financial muscle it requires to keep it afloat and, crucially, to enable the Chevrons to keep competing against teams in the top-tier of the game where it’s status as a Full Member demands.

The ICC will now provide relief to their estimated $6 million debt owed by ZC in what will now be a comprehensive eight-year debt-dissolution masterplan with the remainder of the $19 million debt now being housed under the Zimbabwe Asset Management Corporation after it got a 30 percent discount on principal.

Although ZC officials, led by their chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani, had successfully fought against the country being put on notice for possible suspension at the ICC annual meeting in Dublin, Ireland, in June, the world cricket chiefs made it clear the arrangement was an interim one.

It was subject to ZC officials satisfying certain conditions and the ICC then sent their chief executive Dave Richardson and chief financial officer Ankur Khama to Zimbabwe in August this year for an on-the-spot review of the implementation of the masterplan set by the world cricket chiefs. The ICC chiefs were then set to make a final determination on the matter at their meeting in Singapore last week. An adverse report on Zimbabwe would have thrown the whole rehabilitation process of domestic cricket into disarray with the issues, which were stalking the game — including the putting of the country on notice for possible suspension — before the Dublin conference, being invoked.

However, The Herald can exclusively reveal that Zimbabwe staged a massive boardroom coup in Singapore when the country was removed from the ICC agenda and handed the confidence of the game’s leaders to operate without threats to its Full Membership.

“It’s a huge step forward for the game of cricket in Zimbabwe and doesn’t only remove all the concerns that have been hanging over its future but puts the sport on firm footing,” sources told The Herald.

“What this tells you is that there is unquestionable belief in the future of the game in your country from the ICC bosses and that it has to be supported despite the challenges the game has faced.

“This is also a vote of confidence in those who are in charge of your game because of the ICC bosses have been impressed with the way they have handled the difficult phase which saw them inherit the huge debt and ensuring a resolution to the crisis was reached.

“The immediate challenge now is to try and ensure that results start to improve on the field because there is no question that the game has grown in terms of its appeal and the attendance figures at the ICC World Cup Qualifier, when your team was playing, proves that.”

No comment could be obtained from Mukuhlani, who attended the lCC indaba in Singapore, yesterday as he was said to be in Rwanda.