'Yesterday's man' Chingoka breaks silence
Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka has finally emerged from months of virtual invisibility to give an interview to Zimbabwe's Independent newspaper.
Chingoka has maintained a low-profile since he was barred from attending an ICC meeting in January because the Australian authorities decided his connections with the Mugabe regime made him an undesirable alien. That followed similar action by the European Union in 2008. In his place, chief executive Ozias Bvute has been the public face of ZC.
Locally, critics of Chingoka believe that he is keen to avoid publicity because of the increasing scrutiny of the activities of the board by MDC minister David Coultard. They wryly add that since Chingoka has all but disappeared, Zimbabwe have made massive steps forward. "He's yesterday's man," one former administrator told Cricinfo. "He is associated internally and abroad with the dark days of the game here and his time is thankfully drawing to a close."
Chingoka brushed aside such suggestions, insisting that his silence was because he had "fewer requests for interviews now than I had in the past, and so it appears as if I have been out of the limelight". He added: "I have been doing three things: continuing to run the sport and getting more time for my business and also my personal life."
What has changed is the game inside Zimbabwe, with many players who fell out with his board returning to the fold. "You may remember us saying all along that our doors are always open and that our objective has always been to make sure that the game is accessible to all Zimbabweans regardless of race, creed or gender. Thus, since the disputes stemming back to 2004, we have had players, former administrators and coaches returning, at different intervals, to offer their services again.
"What we have now is what we have always had, which is a positive spirit."
In a sign that there may be more openness than in the recent past, Chingoka was asked if the developments and changes in ZC are meant to repair the damages of your administration? "The ZC board has always insisted on an open door policy," he replied, "and has, at all times, welcomed and utilised to the benefit of the game the best people who have walked through that door."
Turning to on-field affairs, Chingoka maintained the timescale set out by the ICC for Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket was "within two years from the meeting of March 2009, but that will be influenced by our results in the next few months".
If they do return then the old issues of games against England, Australia and New Zealand will resurface, but he was adamant there were no problems with the boards of those countries, only the governments. "Our relations with Cricket Australia for example have seen them helping us in our staff development in various spheres of the game. We have had players, coaches and staffers attending courses there.
And what about continuing voices, albeit less vocal of late, who question Zimbabwe's right to continue to be a Full Member of the ICC? "In so far as all the other Full Members are concerned, we have their unwavering support.
"It's worthy to note that Cricket South Africa is right now working on a blue-print following our visit to them and the reciprocal visit by their coordinating committee specifically chosen to help us return to Test cricket. The blueprint is being finalised now by their board and will attach special emphasis on our return to Test cricket at the shortest possible time. It will embrace facets of our cricket from age-groups through to the Test arena.
"At the same time, we are also playing our part as an ICC Full Member by helping to upgrade standards in member countries such as Kenya and by sending our sides to age-group tournaments in South Africa where they play against other African countries. It is all part of world cricket wanting to have stronger playing countries. And we are not an island in that."
Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare