First-class cricket behind closed doors

Not knowing the score

The game's leading statisticians are up in arms over the inability to find out what is happening in Zimbabwe's domestic matches

Martin Williamson

May 9, 2007

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Keith Dabengwa: he took 7 for 1 in one Logan Cup match ... apparently © AFP
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Pressure is growing for the ICC to take action against Zimbabwe Cricket from an unlikely, and usually low-profile, group - the game's statisticians.

Until this year, despite increasing reporting restrictions, the Zimbabwe board, aided by dedicated volunteers, has always supplied scorecards of first-class and List A matches to the media. But many of the old statisticians have been driven away, while others have been ostracised by the board.

Last year there were increasing problems with the accuracy of the data, and often queries had to be flagged with ZC when cards did not add up or data was missing. These were almost always resolved. However, this year ZC has failed to supply any data, even to its domestic media or on its own website, which is increasingly inaccessible and which has not been updated for several weeks.

No cards have been provided for Faithwear Cup matches, the country's List A competition, which took place more than five weeks ago. A source close to the board said that it was unlikely that they would be made available as in some instances the cards had been lost, while in others the data was so poor as to be almost unusable. "Releasing them will be more that embarrassing," he admitted.

Cricinfo has made several requests for the information, and the ICC and the influential Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians have also contacted ZC. In almost all instances, the board has failed to even acknowledge the mail.

A few cards for the Logan Cup, the first-class competition, have been obtained, but in every instance this has been through volunteers or Cricket Kenya, who have a side in the competition. This will be the first season in the 103-year history of the tournament that scorecards have not been available. The board only published the fixture list on the morning of the first round of matches.

Bill Frindall, the BBC statistician, told Cricinfo that "this situation sadly comes as no surprise". He added: "The ICC should threaten ZC with suspension of their membership and the withdrawal of first-class and List A status. They should also withhold Zimbabwe's 2007 World Cup fee which is bound to end up in the hands of their puppet administrators.

"No doubt the ICC will prevaricate as usual. What a pity those ludicrous multi-national matches of 2005 [the ICC Afro-Asia Cup and Super Series] were not staged in Harare. The scores would have been lost forever."

"It highlights the growing shambles that is ZC," one administrator in Zimbabwe, who did not wish to be named, said. "They can't even sort the basics, so it doesn't take too much imagination to work out what a complete mess other things it is responsible for are. The game is dying on its feet. If people don't even know that matches are happening locally, what hope is there?"

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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