Zimbabwe news October 13, 2009

Zimbabwe will be Test-worthy in 2-3 years - Campbell

Cricinfo staff

Former Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell expects Zimbabwe to return to the Test fold in two to three years with the resolution of some issues that had hampered its cricket. The country lost several leading players in an exodus following Heath Streak's removal from the captaincy in 2004 and the situation became worse in 2006 when the Zimbabwe board suspended the weakened national team from Tests.

"Bygones need to be bygones," Campbell told BBC World Service Sport. "I think we'll be good enough in two or three years to get back and compete. Selection is now on merit and that's a huge step in the right direction.

"ZC makes no apology for the fact that there was a policy of affirmative action before. There are 13 million black people in Zimbabwe and you're not going to will that away - they had to become more integrated."

Campbell, who played 60 Tests and 188 one-day internationals, is now the chairman of selectors. He said that the mess in Zimbabwe cricket since 2004, when 15-odd white players lost their contracts, could have been handled a lot better.

"I don't think it was thought out. When you get cricketing decisions made by non-cricketers, that is what happens," he said. "There were a lot of people who muddied the waters as well and I think it just became an exercise that had the right intentions but just got out of control."

Only a few players from the exodus, including Steak and left-arm spinner Ray Price, made comebacks. The country continues to play ODIs and Twenty20s but languishes at the bottom of the world rankings.

Ozias Bvute, managing director of Zimbabwe Cricket, defended his board's policies as it gave plenty of opportunities to several black players.

"To allow cricket to grow, we had to ensure that everybody was represented and that we picked our team from the entire population, rather than just a facet of it," Bvute said.

"At one stage we were able to raise a team from only 200 to 300 individuals. That situation has changed now.

"Ultimately, you can't take away the fact that there are over half a million youngsters who now play cricket in Zimbabwe, that there are over 200 professional cricketers in Zimbabwe, that wherever you go in and around Zimbabwe, people now know about cricket."