Year-long dispute comes to an end March 17, 2005

Remaining rebels sign new deals

Cricinfo staff

Trevor Gripper: back to work © Getty Images
Almost all of Zimbabwe's remaining rebel players have signed new contracts with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, effectively bringing to an end a year-long dispute which at one time threatened the future of the game in the country.

Stuart Carlisle, Trevor Gripper and Craig Wishart met with Richard Kaschula, one of the selectors, and were reportedly given a number of assurances before coming to their decisions. It is widely believed that foremost among these is that Max Ebrahim, currently the head of the selection panel, will be replaced in the coming months.

All the rebels have been in discussions with an ad-hoc committee formed to try to resolve the dispute - that committee's report is due to be published at the end of this week. The rebels were handed new contracts a fortnight ago and have been discussing these among themselves and also with their lawyers.

"I want to go back and play some cricket, and leave it to other people to fight for things," Carlisle explained. "We've been assured that things will change over the next few weeks and months. It's reached a point where we all need to get on with cricket."

The return of Heath Streak last month signaled the beginning of the end. The strike started with his dismissal, and his unilateral decision to sign a new contract, which reportedly left some of his colleagues unimpressed, made their position untenable. Zimbabwe's shocking performances in the two Tests in South Africa gave the board a further incentive to reach a deal.

With the ICC due to meet today to discuss, among many other things, Zimbabwe, the timing of this announcement has given the ZCU a boost as it looks to counter mounting criticism of on-field performances.

Gripper's return creates an interesting situation. Reports last week indicated that the ZCU had dropped hints that it believed Ray Gripper, Trevor's father, was one of the leading figures behind the dispute. The Zimbabwe Independent published a quote from a source close to the board who said: "The rebels decided to return to national duty because they said they could not let Ray Gripper decide their cricket future."

Grant Flower and Ray Price have not signed new contracts but both are committed to playing county cricket in England.