ZIMBABWE’S domestic cricket season has for the second season running been plunged into turmoil after yet another standoff between Zimbabwe Cricket and local cricketers yesterday resulted in a delay in the start of the opening round of the four-day Logan Cup competition.
Mashonaland Eagles were due to play Mid West Rhinos at Old Hararians Sports Club in the capital while Matabeleland Tuskers were scheduled to face Mountaineers at Queens Sports Club.
Both matches failed to take off yesterday as scheduled as the players arrived at the match venues and did the warm-ups before refusing to play.
The matches were however re-scheduled to today, although it was not clear if ZC had reached an agreement with the players and their representative body, the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers Association (ZPCA).
ZPCA secretary-general Eliah Zvimba confirmed yesterday’s standoff, but could not comment further as he was attending a funeral.
“Yes it’s very correct that the players have refused to play in the first round of the Logan Cup matches. The players will resume playing tomorrow until I meet with Zimbabwe Cricket on Friday. I cannot comment any further as I’m attending a funeral,” said Zvimba.
Zimbabwe Cricket board chairman Wilson Manase and managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa are in Dubai for the ICC Board and Committee meetings held on Monday.
ZC spokesman Lovemore Banda later issued a statement yesterday: “On Monday, the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers Association (ZPCA) wrote to Zimbabwe Cricket listing what it called ‘grey areas’ that needed to be addressed. Among the matters were contractual issues and the memorandum of understanding between ZC and the ZPCA.
“ZC proposed a meeting on Thursday (tomorrow) to continue with discussions, but the ZPCA chief executive officer Eliah Zvimba said he would only be available on Friday afternoon.
“Against that background of continuing talks with the ZPCA, it came as a surprise to ZC that when umpires went on to the field for the first day of Logan Cup matches at the two venues, the players refused to come out, citing the same contractual issues which were contained in the email from their association and which will be discussed at the meeting scheduled for Friday.
“The boycott by the players has left ZC with no option, but to suspend domestic matches until the players make themselves available.”
Tuskers said the games would go ahead today, making the announcement on their official Facebook page: “Good News , action resumes tomorrow, the game will start tomorrow Wednesday 12 November up to the 15th . . . bring a friend and lets support our boys # team tuskers.”
Sources at the local cricket governing body told NewsDay Sport that the franchise players refused to play yesterday as planned as they were unhappy with the amounts in offered in their contracts which they were only given on Friday, just two days before the first round of the Pro50 Championship matches on Sunday.
There was also further discontent from those players who did not secure deals as their earn-as-you-play fees had been reduced.
“Basically the franchise players are not happy with the amounts in the contracts they were offered only on Friday, only two days before the start of the season. Those who were not offered contracts are also unhappy with the earn-as-you-play fees as they have been reduced significantly,” a source said.
“There are also other issues to do with medical aid, but ZPCA will be shedding more light on all the grievances on behalf of the players,” said another source.
Former Zimbabwe pace bowler Kyle Jarvis, who had returned to Mid-West Rhinos for domestic season from his English side Lancashire had early yesterday morning tweeted: “Good start to the Zim 4-day domestic season. Game called off with all the teams on strike. Sad to see this is all still going on.”
Jarvis (25) called time on his fledgling international career in August last year at the height of another impasse between ZC and local cricketers over payment issues.
ZC had since early this year failed to reach an agreement with the players, but reportedly waited until Friday before offering franchise players contracts for the new season.
With the country bracing for next year’s Cricket World Cup, there were high hopes that ZC would organise a successful domestic season after last season’s salary dispute between the governing body and the players.
Last season players from Mountaineers and Mashonaland Eagles side did not take the field for their Pro50 Championship match in December over unpaid salaries while two Logan Cup matches were also cancelled during the course of the season.
A planned domestic Twenty20 competition which was expected to help the team prepare for the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh was also subsequently cancelled because of the boycotts.