Zimbabwe players threaten boycott over contract issue
Zimbabwe's cricketers are considering a boycott ahead of their series against Bangladesh in protest against unsatisfactory payments from their board. A source close to the players told ESPNcricinfo that non-centrally contracted players may not play in an upcoming warm-up match between Zimbabwe's cricketers, "to contest ZC's offer of a daily allowance" instead of a winter contract.
The latest setback comes 10 days before Zimbabwe begin a series against Bangladesh, and threatens to disrupt their preparations. Although a large number of the players involved in the upcoming series are contracted to the board and do not have the same financial concerns, they are expected to support those on the fringes who have asked for winter contracts and been denied.
Zimbabwe's fringe players were contracted to their franchises and paid through Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) grants, which were distributed to the franchises. All those agreements were only for the summer and ended on March 31, leaving most cricketers in need of work over the winter. Some of them have done so by obtaining club cricket deals in the UK - a source of stable income - which they will have to forego to spend the next few weeks in Zimbabwe playing in the Bangladesh series, and in later matches against India (three ODIs) and Sri Lanka in July and August. The lack of clarity on the renewal of contracts has also left coaches uncertain about their future.
The players, who declined to comment on record, are willing to stay in the country if they have a contractual agreement guaranteeing them a winter salary. ZC, who are steeped in debt, can only afford a daily allowance, which has been described by a source as "pittance". As a result, the players have decided they may not take the field for an internal warm-up match before the Tests to show their discontent with the situation. Some media reports in Zimbabwe also claim the players have not been attending training.
In case the franchise players decide to honour their club cricket arrangements abroad, Zimbabwe will be left with fewer cricketers to choose from for the series. Interim coach Stephen Mangongo promised changes after the team lost all seven matches on their recent tour of West Indies, but he may not be able to follow through with those changes if players are unavailable.
A similar financial hurdle hit Zimbabwe the last time they played Bangladesh, on their Test comeback in August 2011. Then, Tatenda Taibu, who has since retired, complained of non-payment and said nothing had changed from the dark days of the country's cricket. Shortly afterwards, Zimbabwe introduced a central contract system which allowed for 15 players to be put on national books.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent