Chingoka seeks fresh start for Zimbabwe
Following the ICC's clearing of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) of racism allegations, Peter Chingoka, the chairman of the ZCU, said in a speech in Harare yesterday that it was time to "draw a line under the off-the-field events of the past six months and return the spotlight on the field of play".
According to local journalists, Chingoka has been visibly relaxed ever since the publication of the ICC report. Whereas in the preceding days he had been liable to fly off the handle at the slightest suggestion of criticism, now he presented an affable front and fielded even the more difficult questions with a smile.
"Now that the Union has been cleared of racism, we can move forward with our core business, which is to administer play," said Chingoka. "If any of the sacked players want to return, they can still do so, but there must be no pre-conditions."
Chingoka concentrated on their replacements. "We envisage that the squad we have now will come into its own in the next one-and-a-half to two years," he said. "That the talent is there cannot be argued. What is lacking is experience, and that can only come with engagement. The players need to get continued exposure, particularly in the longer version of the game."
Zimbabwe, under Tatenda Taibu's captaincy, will return to Test cricket against Bangladesh early in 2005, before taking on South Africa in two Tests in March - a stern test of how far they might have progressed.
Chingoka also indicated how pro-active the ZCU had been before the racism probe: "The report on the racism inquiry ends with eight recommendations. Many of these we had already implemented before the report, and the remainder we have started implementing." These mostly centred on issues of selection and integration, and in particular, the establishment of a players' association, which would channel grievances more effectively.
"The ZCU [had] asked for a players' representative to be in place by June. While this has not been done, the process is underway with our General Manager - Human Resources, Wilfred Mukondiwa, in liaison with Douglas Hondo, who is representing the players."
Chingoka said that since the introduction in 2001 of a formal programme that was designed to bring more Africans and Asians into cricket, the numbers playing have increased from 15,000 to 60,000. "And within two to three years there will be 100,000 or more."
England, who refused to play in their World Cup match in Zimbabwe last year for security reasons, are scheduled to play a five-match one-day series there, starting on November 26. Representatives from the England & Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers' Association are currently coming to the end of a four-day meeting in Zimbabwe, where they are examining factors relating to safety and security.