The Zimbabwe crisis January 7, 2006

WICB monitor Zimbabwe crisis

Tony Cozier

After Taibu's departure more are likely to follow © Getty Images

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), along with the rest of the cricket world, is anxiously following developments in Zimbabwe following the government's take-over of the administration of the game on Saturday.

The move and a continuing strike by members of the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers' Association (ZPCA) over contracts and governance issues have put Zimbabwe's scheduled tour of the West Indies from April 15-May 15, for two Tests and five one-day internationals, in considerable doubt.

Zoral Barthley, the WICB's cricket operations officer, said yesterday he was awaiting clarification on the situation from Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). "We really have only a few weeks to finalise bookings for their travel and accommodation," he said. "The critical time is the end of January." He noted that it was too early to make any contingency plans. "We'll wait until we are further appraised of the situation but time is obviously a consideration," he added.

The Zimbabwe players are angry over what they claim is mismanagement and corruption within the ZC and non-payment of their fees for last year's series against New Zealand and India and other contract issues. They have already refused to participate in the Afro-Asia A team series in Bangladesh next week and an Under-23 tour of South Africa next month.

They reiterated their stand Wednesday that they would not tour the West Indies unless Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe Cricket chairman and Ozias Bvute, ZC chief executive, are removed from office. But Gibson Mashingaidze, Army Brigadier, also the head of the government's Sports and Recreation Commission, announced yesterday that Chingoka would be retained in the same position on an interim board. As a paid employee, Bvute is also likely to remain on.

Mashingaidze added that all previous white and Asian directors were dismissed because of "their racial connotations and serving their own agendas and not government policy". He was defiant in the face of the possibility that the ICC would withdraw Zimbabwe's Test status, as it did for two months in 2004 during another strike by some leading players.

Tatenda Taibu, former Zimbabwe captain, quit to take up a contract in Bangladesh last month and other players have gone to Australia and India since the impasse. Others are planning similar moves. One of the senior players, Andy Blignaut said after the players' meeting Wednesday that they did not wish to damage the ICC tours programme nor "make things difficult for West Indies".

"But we have no option but to carry this through," he added. "We are hoping all these issues can be resolved but I must say that at present the prospects look bleak. We are all determined about our course of action. It represents our only hope of proper treatment."

Zimbabwe have played 83 Tests since being granted official status in 1992, including six against the West Indies. The ICC had previously declined to intervene in what it described as "an internal matter". But last night it promised a statement on the issue within 24 hours.