Zimbabwe news January 16, 2013

Zimbabwe selector Makoni unable to continue

Zimbabwe's most recent convenor of selectors Givemore Makoni cannot be reappointed to his job because of a new directive from the country's Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC). The directive, which comes into effect on February 1, states that only former national players can become selectors.

"Good performance of national teams in international matches is a matter of national interest. It has been noted that in some circumstances, this national interest has been compromised by the calibre of national team selectors who lack the requisite experience and skills to play their role effectively," the SRC said in a statement. "This directive therefore seeks to correct this anomaly so as to improve the competitiveness of our national teams."

Continual underperformance of teams across sports prompted the SRC to take this step. The minister of education, sports, arts and culture, David Coltart, explained that it was a decision taken after in-depth consultation with the country's sportsmen and women.

"A wide cross section of Zimbabwean sportspersons have told me that playing at international level involves a considerable leap in physical and mental expertise, which is best understood and appreciated by sportspersons who have experienced that themselves," Coltart said. "The same sportspersons have advised me that national players are far more likely to respect and accept hard selection decisions made by people who have achieved themselves at the highest level."

Although the directive comes into effect in two weeks' time, it was first mooted in October last year. In the same month, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) changed their policy following the death of Kevin Curran, one of the members of their selection committee. Curran, who was also the coach of the Mashonaland Eagles, was part of a three-person panel that also included former Test player Wayne James and Makoni. Alan Butcher, the national coach, was only used in an advisory capacity.

The directive and Curran's death took place within weeks of each other, and resulted in ZC shaking up their panel. James and Butcher sat on a two-person committee but Makoni had a casting vote. The main difference between the rejigged panel and the previous one was that the coach had more of a say. Historically, according to Coltart, Zimbabwean cricket coaches have not been selectors but ZC has now changed this.

Once the SRC ruling comes into effect, Makoni will not be able to play any part in selection and it also means that if ZC appoints a coach who is not a former national player, he cannot be a selector. Butcher is not reapplying for his job, which will end after the tour to West Indies in March, and Steven Mangongo, the assistant coach, is one of the people in the running to take over. Mangongo did not play for Zimbabwe.

Mangongo, batting coach Grant Flower and bowling coach Heath Streak are believed to be in the running for the coaching positions. Mangongo will be ruled out if ZC want to continue having their coach act as a selector, which has led Makoni to tell local papers the directive was "utter rubbish and racist." He believes it will deny black officials opportunity to advance.

Coltart denied the new policy was racially targeted. "Regarding Mangongo, it is ZC who have recently changed the rules on coaches," he said. "If they want to hire Mangongo they can easily revert to the status quo and have the coach in an advisory capacity."

Coltart also said he could alter portions of the directive to ensure coaches were not excluded entirely from selection, irrespective of their level of playing. "This was never designed to exclude coaches from the decision making process and so I may well refine the directive to make sure that that is the case - and do say as the Australians do. The chair is always an ex-player and there are a majority of ex-players but the coach is on the panel and he doesn't have to be an ex player."

Zimbabwe had long standing racial divisions that exposed themselves in cricket with the white player walk-out in 2004. Players including Heath Streak, the Flower brothers and Alistair Campbell walked away from cricket in the country because of ZC's aggressive transformation program. Matters were thought to have eased when they returned to the fold and Zimbabwe fielded teams that now represent the country's population.

Makoni, who will remain manager of the Southern Rocks, is still fearful the directive could divide Zimbabwe cricket again and angry that he will not be considered for the selection panel because of the new rules.

"Not playing for Zimbabwe during our time did not mean that you were not good enough to play for the national team. Doors were closed for us," he said. "We fought that system and although we didn't benefit from it, in terms of playing for the national team, it opened the doors for a lot of black players.

"Now, we have black cricket players all over the country, cricket is spreading into a truly mass sporting discipline. We can't allow people to come and try and reverse all that," he said. Coltart denied any plot to exclude black Zimbabweans and said Makoni's remarks were "abusive and unnecessary."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent