Zimbabwe matches put on hold October 24, 2007

Another fine mess

Telford Vice
Like a swearword or a jailed relative, Zimbabwe has become unmentionable in South African cricket circles.

Busy man: Gerald Majola couldn't find time to talk about the current situation © Cricinfo Ltd
Like a swearword or a jailed relative, Zimbabwe has become unmentionable in South African cricket circles. Why was the grand plan to include Zimbabwe in South Africa's domestic competitions, which was announced on Monday, put on hold on Wednesday pending a Cricket South Africa (CSA) board meeting on Friday?

It is a simple and relevant question, and Tony Irish, the chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association, provided what would seem a credible answer when he was quoted as saying that "... some of the players have concerns about playing against Zimbabwe".

The first of those players might have been the Lions, who were scheduled to take on Zimbabwe in a SuperSport Series match in Harare on Sunday. Not so, said Lions chief executive Alan Kourie: "Our players are happy to go to Zimbabwe, that's not the issue."

That was as far as Kourie was prepared to go. For the rest, he said, we should knock on the doors of "a guy called Gerald Majola or a guy called Brian Basson".

So we did. Or, at least, we tried. Majola, CSA's chief executive, said he was "in a meeting", and he proved to be out of reach when we called back in an hour as he suggested. The office of CSA general manager: cricket operations Basson said he was "very busy".

Besides, Basson's office added helpfully, "He can't comment [on the Zimbabwe issue] because a board meeting will be held on Friday."

We don't have to suck our thumbs too hard to deduce that what is irking the franchise teams about the Zimbabwe plan is not the moral dilemma about playing in one of the most economically, politically and socially unhealthy countries on earth.

It's a touching thought, but let's not kid ourselves. Most professional players wouldn't know the price of a pair of batting gloves, much less the price of a loaf of bread - when available - in downtown Harare or Bulawayo. No, it's the inconvenience of having additional fixtures thrust into the schedule that has raised the franchises' ire. And with good reason: the SuperSport Series is already two rounds old, and plans have no doubt been made for the off-duty weekends.

There's also the way this was done. Surely Friday's board meeting was the correct forum in which to discuss the Zimbabwe plan, which undoubtedly has merit? Why was this decision, presumably, imposed from on high? Isn't that a sure fire way to put burrs under the saddles of people who run and play for franchises?

We would like to put these questions to people who might answer them, but so far they've told us to go Z*****we ourselves.

Telford Vice works for the MWP news agency in South Africa