No return until Zimbabwe board pays what it owes March 24, 2006

Blignaut: Can't pay, won't play

Cricinfo staff



Andy Blignaut: 'It's pointless for me to play or sign a new contract while the old one is still in arrears' © Getty Images
Andy Blignaut, the Zimbabwe pace bowler now playing in South Africa, says he will only return home when he is paid the money owed to him by Zimbabwe Cricket.

Blignaut said in an interview with Zimbabwe's Sunday Mail newspaper k that he was still owed in the region of US$70 000 by the board. According to a report from Charlie Robertson sent to the ICC on behalf of Zimbabwe's provincial chairmen, a number of players owed money dating back to August last year are now considering legal action against the board after months of being stonewalled.

Blignaut was tipped to take over the Zimbabwe captaincy following Tatenda Taibu's protest retirement from international cricket last November. He told the paper that he was enjoying domestic cricket in South Africa, but his heart was with Zimbabwe cricket. "Everything is going on smoothly, but it will be more so if I can get my dues from ZC and return to international cricket. My major concern at the moment is my Test career."

Blignaut explained his absence from the team that played against Kenya recently in an ODI series that finished 2-2. "I wasn't part of the team because I am still owed a substantial amount of money by ZC. It's pointless for me to play or sign a new contract while the old one is still in arrears. Other than that I am still prepared to play for my country.

"Ever since my return from Australia I have always maintained that my loyalty is with the Zimbabwe cricket team. I am a professional cricketer and I want to play at the highest level. But people must appreciate that playing cricket is a job like any other and I must get paid at the end of the day."

And the outstanding cash will dictate whether he returns to give a much-needed boost to the side when they tour the Caribbean next month. "I have already indicated earlier that I am willing to represent my country. It's just that the bread and butter issues have to be sorted out first."

Taibu has a problem with what is happening, it goes without saying that he is black. Dion Ebrahim has a problem with what is happening, he is Asian and I am white and also have problems with what is going on. How can three different players of three different races have the same grievances and the whole issue is still dismissed as racially incited.
But he is realistic about the quality of the side he might rejoin. "The current team does not have the calibre required to compete favourably in international cricket. Even with me, Taibu and [Heath] Streak in the side, we will struggle. As long as most of the senior guys are sidelined you cannot expect these youngsters to fill in those gaps. They will always struggle against bigger teams. You see, it's impossible to build a good Test side by continually fast tracking Under-19's into the senior team. One needs to mature first as a player before breaking into the Test ranks.

"I am not saying that these youngsters are not good. They have the talent but it takes more than just raw talent to make a good player or team. The idea is to grow up as a unit that way you develop telepathic understanding within the side."

He concluded by pointing out that the current troubles were caused by the politicisation of the game in the country. "The rebel saga opened up a Pandora's box that resulted in a lot of acrimony and an atmosphere of suspicion within the ZC board, ultimately leading to the cleansing ceremony that saw most experienced whites and Asians kicked out from the board. At one time both races were touted as being out to sabotage cricket in Zimbabwe.

"The problem is that anything someone says is taken from a political point of view this distorting the whole argument. Taibu has a problem with what is happening, it goes without saying that he is black. Dion Ebrahim has a problem with what is happening, he is Asian and I am white and also have problems with what is going on. How can three different players of three different races have the same grievances and the whole issue is still dismissed as racially incited.

"Firstly, ZC should settle all the outstanding money still owed to players and carry on from there. And both players and the authorities should desist from washing their dirty linen in public. Lastly I believe no one will play to the best of their abilities or in good faith if they are not paid that's due to them."