Tests in danger over Zimbabwe's payment dispute
The Zimbabwe players have extended to Monday* a deadline for Zimbabwe Cricket to clear their dues, which could yet put a cloud over the two-Test series that begins on Tuesday. The hosts aborted training on Friday morning ahead of the deciding ODI against Pakistan in protest, but took the field on Saturday and lost by 108 runs.
Zimbabwe, through their newly-formed players' union, had considered a boycott of the final ODI if the salaries had not been paid by end of day Friday, but as learnt by ESPNcricinfo, "most of the players" were willing to take the field and the game proceeded as per schedule.
However, an uneasy peace hovers over the situation. A player, who asked not to be named, said they have decided that unless ZC pays them what they are owed by Monday, "there will not be a Test series".
ZC was due to address the players on Friday morning at the Harare Sports Club, when they decided to stop training on realising none of them had been paid in full what was owed to them. The meeting was delayed twice, though, before ZC summoned players to its offices at 4.45pm. At least one player confirmed he did not attend the meeting because he did not think he would get anything out of it.
Zimbabwe's players were given a guarantee they would be paid on Thursday, August 28, and the money would reflect in their accounts on Friday.
A source close to the team confirmed some of them stayed at the ground on Friday on for a voluntary net but the players as a whole have banded together. "They want to get their point across and they want to make sure they get paid," the insider said. "It's about making things happen now and making sure they get some money."
The latest development comes just a day after some players told ESPNcricinfo that the union and its members were satisfied with the arrangement they had reached with Zimbabwe Cricket at the beginning of the Pakistan series. Zimbabwe's cricketers refused to train the week before the series began because they had not been paid their July salaries. Instead, they formed a breakthrough players' union - the first of its kind for at least a decade - and demanded match fees, salaries and a percentage of ICC-event reimbursements.
An eventual settlement with ZC was reached a week before the first T20. The Zimbabwe Independent reported the players had asked for US$5,000 per Test, US$3,000 per ODI and US$1,500 per T20 but those figures were too steep for ZC. It has since been ascertained that lesser amounts were agreed on.
A player, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday he was "confident" of ZC keeping to their word and making the payments. "We are satisfied with the arrangement we've reached and we believe we will be paid," he said. Less than 24 hours later, Zimbabwean players felt differently when they were greeted by empty bank accounts.
While cash-flow issues have long dogged Zimbabwean cricket - they also threatened to strike in April this year ahead of the series against Bangladesh because of unsatisfactory daily allowances - lack of playing time has also been a concern for them and if they do not take the field on Saturday they will be forgoing a rare chance to claim silverware with the series locked at 1-1.
Also, Zimbabwe's international programme for this year was due to conclude with a visit from Sri Lanka in October but the SLC has confirmed ZC asked for a postponement because of "unforseen circumstances". Zimbabwe's domestic season was due to progress as usual but the franchises have not been made aware of the exact amount of funding they will receive. As such, many of them have been unable to confirm contracts for coaches and players.
*16.10GMT, August 30: This story has been updated.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent