Cricket fiasco: Minister ‘devastated’

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Kirsty Coventry says she is “devastated” by Zimbabwe’s suspension by the International Cricket Council (ICC), but insists Government did not interfere in the affairs of the country’s second biggest sporting discipline.

She insists the decision by the Sports and Recreation Commission board to suspend the Zimbabwe Cricket leadership, which is at the heart of the sanctions imposed by the ICC, could not be described as Government interference in the sport as implied by the global cricket controlling body.

The minister said she had called an urgent meeting with captains of the national teams to discuss the developments.

On a day of frenzied activity on the domestic cricket scene, Lady Chevrons’ captain Mary-Ann Musonda, whose side could be kicked out of the final ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 qualifier in Scotland next month, said her teammates were shattered.

She said they had wanted to repeat the magic being displayed by the Gems at the Netball World Cup and it will be a disaster if their dream is taken away from them because of boardroom issues beyond their control.

Zimbabwe all-rounder Solomon Mire announced his retirement from international cricket, while former captain Brendan Taylor said the heartbreaking decision could end the careers of many players, administrators and ground staff.

All-rounder Sikandar Raza said it was a harsh decision that could destroy the game in this country.

There is uncertainty and despair, among the players and the Zimbabwe Cricket staff, after the ICC froze all funding and imposed a suspension on matches between the country’s national teams and their international counterparts.

Coventry said she did not believe the decision by the Sports Commission to suspend the ZC board led by Tavengwa Mukuhlani, which was at the heart of the country’s suspension from the ICC, amounted to Government interference.

The ICC ruled that the SRC decision amounted to “Government interference’’ and ordered that Mukuhlani and his board be reinstated within the next three months, pending a review of the suspension at their next meeting in October. The suspension could come at a huge cost to the players’ careers after ICC suspended all of Zimbabwe’s cricket engagements under their control and froze funding to the domestic game.

“There has been no Government Interference @ICC!!!,’’ Coventry tweeted. ‘’Minister of Sport elects SRC board (ICC do not see this as Gvt interference). SRC is not Government – they are a Public Body.

“I am devastated that the @ICC ruling has affected our @ZimCricketv Players.

“There is need for good governance at ZC for the international success we all want to see. Any decisions towards that should never affect the Players.

“I am meeting with both Men’s and Ladies Captains today. #Urgent.’’

But, Lady Chevrons skipper Musonda narrated a heart-rending story.

“It’s the women who suffer FIRST and suffer the MOST. We are living this reality now. We just want to play the sport we love. In peace. For Zimbabwe,’’ she tweeted.

‘’You see what the @ZimGemsOfficial are doing, making Zimbabwe smile, that’s all we wanted to do too.’’

Chevrons all-rounder Mire, who has represented Zimbabwe in 47 ODIs, nine T20Is and two Test matches, announced he was walking away from international cricket.

Mire was part of the team that has been on a tour of the Netherlands and Ireland which concluded this week amid some disappointing results.

“It has been a week of emotional highs and lows in sport and, sadly, not a good one for Zimbabwe Cricket but just wanted to officially address everyone else,’’ he said on Instagram.

“I informed the players and tech(nical) staff of my decision at the end of the recent tour and wanted to formally announce my decision to retire from Zimbabwe Cricket in all formats with immediate effect.

“It is unfortunate and untimely, however, to leave under the current circumstances that are out of my control but I have decided to take a step in a new direction.’’

Mire, who has set up base in Australia, represented Zimbabwe from 2014 to 2019.

“Representing my country at the highest level, for me, has been the highest honour and service I could ever give and I have been extremely privileged to have been afforded the opportunity,’’ he said.

“My short career has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, stops and starts, frustrations and joys but will be one I shall look upon and cherish for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I was lucky enough to experience and for that I would like to express my gratitude.

“I would like to thank my family across the world who supported me throughout the journey, my team mates, I’ll miss the trips with them, all my coaches who worked with me in one way or another, my close friends for the endless support, my mentors and roles models and anyone who pushed me and challenged me to be a better cricketer or afforded me an opportunity to train and improve.

“I can say, without a doubt, that sport and, in particular international cricket, will always be my biggest lesson in life.’’

Taylor said the decision had rocked the domestic game.

“@ICC It’s heartbreaking to hear your verdict and suspend cricket in Zimbabwe. The @ZimbabweSrc has no government back round yet our Chairman is an MP?

‘’Hundreds of honest people, players, support staff, ground staff totally devoted to ZC out of a job, just like that,” Taylor tweeted.

The Chevrons are also set for the Men’s T20 World Cup qualifier in October and their participation will now depend on whether the SRC reinstates the suspended board as set out by the ICC as one of the conditions for re-engagement.

Raza also took to Twitter to express his anguish.

“How one decision has made a team, strangers, how one decision has made so many people unemployed, how one decision affects so many families, how one decision has ended so many careers.

‘’Certainly, not how I wanted to say goodbye to international cricket @ICC,” he posted from his Twitter handle.

The suspended board led by Mukuhlani said they were ready to work with the Sports Commission to find a way forward.

‘’Although the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were inevitable, we believe the devastating consequences of suspension should jolt all the parties involved into setting differences aside in an effort to find amicable solutions that will avert expulsion and the total demise of the game,’’ they said in a statement.

‘’To exacerbate matters, ZC will not be able to stage its domestic competitions nor to fulfil its Future Tours Programme and other international obligations, including the tour to Bangladesh for a T20 triangular series that also includes Afghanistan in September.

‘’In all this, players and staff are bearing the brunt of the standoff and they might be forced to go for months or forever without their salaries and match fees.

‘’We would like to see our teams playing again as soon as possible and the ZC board is ready to cooperate with the SRC and other stakeholders to get Zimbabwe back to operating within the confines of the ICC statutes again.

‘’The board is committed to ensuring our game is financially stable, thriving and of a world-class standard.

‘’And, in light of the allegations that have been peddled, we are appealing to the SRC to release the findings of a forensic audit that the government-run body recently conducted into the affairs of ZC.

‘’The ZC board would also welcome the ICC to conduct another audit should the world cricket authority so wish.’’