March 12, 2002

ZCU fired Neil Johnson: Chingoka

The unceremonious departures from the Zimbabwe national team in 2000 by top-order batsman Murray Goodwin and all-rounder Neil Johnson has always been a mystery to the ordinary cricket fan in the country.

The two players had established themselves as the mainstay of the national team in their short stint with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and many will remember the 1999 World Cup in England where they were influential in Zimbabwe's progress to the Super Six stage. The two players left Zimbabwe after the tour of England in June 2000, with Johnson joining Western Province of South Africa while Goodwin left for Western Australia.

Although reports had indicated that Johnson quit the national team, ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka was singing a different tune this week, saying that the union had decided not to renew his contract.

"There has been this myth that we lost Neil Johnson but we actually decided that we didn't need his services any longer for a number of internal reasons. It was our decision, not his.

"As for Murray Goodwin, we tried our best to hold on to him but he had received better offers from Western Australia and the English county league. Murray Goodwin was a very big loss, but then keeping him here would also have meant that Stuart Carlisle would not have played in the national team.

"The departure of Goodwin and Johnson taught us to have a strong reserve base. We now have strong fringe players to replace the current national players. We won't have the problem we faced in 2000 when the two players left," explained Chingoka.

The debate on unexplained departures by talented national team players resurfaced last month following all-rounder Paul Strang's request to be released from his contract with ZCU.