The Zimbabwe crisis February 2, 2006

Zimbabwe players back on strike

Cricinfo staff

Zimbabwe's professional cricketers, who ended their strike three weeks ago on the understanding that Zimbabwe Cricket would address contract and payment issues, have announced that they will not be available for selection after collective talks with the board broke down.

In a letter delivered to ZC offices in Harare, they said that no contracted player would now be available for any kind of international, regional or domestic match other than for their clubs. But ZC reacted swiftly by saying that it refused to recognise Clive Field, the players' representative, and that it would speak to each player individually with a contract offer. This was described by the players as a "divide and conquer" approach to negotiations. "They want to pick people off one-by-one rather than deal with them en masse," Field said. "Zimbabwe Cricket has really had it now. The players relented from a similar position to give ZC a further three weeks until the end of the month to pay the large sums of money owed them. They are now simply walking away."

The issue was supposed to have been resolved by January 31, and it is now likely that the lawyer acting for the players will issue a summons against ZC for almost $200,000 owed in backpay. Given that the board is widely reported to be almost broke, it is hard to see how it could settle the debt.

Field said that it was unlikely that players would accept the contracts unless the issue of outstanding monies was also settled, but he urged them to see what ZC was prepared to offer. ZC officials were likely to speak to all 25 players in line to be offered contracts today, and those involved are likely to meet again to review their collective position.

Given that only yesterday Roger Brathwaite, the chief executive of the West Indies Cricket Board, told Cricinfo that he was monitoring the likely strength of the tour squad before deciding whether to cancel the proposed visit by Zimbabwe, this could lead to a decision being made sooner rather than later.

The strike will also mean that the Fairweather provincial one-day tournament, which started this week and is due to resume tomorrow, could be postponed or scrapped as the five provinces are likely to struggle to be able to field sides.