The Zimbabwe crisis May 3, 2004

Rebel writes about ZCU official's threats

Wisden Cricinfo staff

One of the players in dispute with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union has claimed that a leading official threatened to dig up the pitch for a recent international match if more black players were not selected for the series against Sri Lanka. Another local player told Wisden Cricinfo that the official had also said that he would orchestrate a pitch invasion if his demands were not met.

Australia's Sun-Herald newspaper reported that the player, who chose to remain anonymous, explained to Ross Barrat - the chief executive of Albion, who make helmets and other cricket clothing - that the rebels had made it a legal matter. He claimed that the official has a track record of erratic behaviour, and last season allegedly assaulted an opposing player during a match.

"Things have gone mad here," wrote the player. "We've had non-stop meetings ... for the last three weeks. We're forcing them into arbitration, which they don't like because they're so guilty. It's a dangerous move, but we're doing it to try to save Zimbabwe cricket."

The report added that the letter (written before the latest round of negotiations) claimed that a number of individuals were considering joining the player exodus, with Australia the favourite destination.

The signs that a settlement might be on the way, which came when four rebels were picked for the A-team match against the Sri Lankans, soon disappeared when it emerged that the other 11 rebel players were not being considered for selection in the squad for this week's first Test. The Zimbabwean board - via the government-controlled Herald newspaper - said that the 11 were all "unfit".

This claim was met with a shrug of the shoulders by one senior player: "We all passed our fitness tests," he said. He added that the ZCU again appeared to be trying to find a way out of the mess with a combination of half-truths and slyness. Whether this will work depends on the attitude of the four - Streak, Trevor Gripper, Sean Ervine and Ray Price - and whether the board meets the Tuesday deadline imposed by the rebels.

One interesting aside was that Streak was given the biggest ovation of anybody by the all-black crowd at Takashinga when he went out to bat against the Sri Lankan tourists on Saturday. This is an indication of the respect he is held in by all sections of the community. The local press's decision to label him as a racist clearly left the crowd unimpressed.