Zimbabwe players boycott training, form union
Zimbabwe's players have taken the bold step of forming a players' union in a bid to present a united front in salary negotiations. They have also boycotted training ahead of the series against Pakistan, which begins next week, until their demands are met.
However, ESPNcricinfo has learned that at least three players have decided to resume training*.
Wilfred Mukondiwa, the MD of Zimbabwe Cricket, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that a players' association was in the works for the last few months but he did not expect one to be formed this quickly. He said ZC have been in talks with the new body and expects a resolution over payment issues later today. Mukondiwa remained confident the series against Pakistan would take place "as planned."
The players, who could not be reached for comment, are speaking through five senior members of the squad - Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya and Vusi Sibanda - who have been in meetings with Mukondiwa and ZC "since Wednesday." They are believed to be asking for match fees in addition to the salaries they receive on central contracts.
Mukondiwa confirmed a Zimbabwe Independent report which said players want US$5,000 per Test, $3,000 per ODI and US$1,500 per T20. He did not reveal whether ZC had agreed to pay those amounts, but said the "door was open for negotiation."
ZC have made the players an offer which they had taken to the union. Mukondiwa expected they would accept the offer and said the only issue which was yet to be agreed on was that of World Cup fees. The Independent reported that the players want 10% of the proceeds ZC receives from next year's World T20.
Mukondiwa also admitted that players have not been paid their July salaries due to a liquidity problem in ZC. While Mukondiwa said the five-ODI visit from India "brought in money", ZC "has commitments" and was not able to meet all of them. He said the players were given an assurance they would be paid soon. Jason Gillespie, who has coached Midwest Rhinos in Zimbabwe, tweeted: Very pleasing to see the Zimbabwe cricketers form a players union. Hopefully ZC will realise this is a very positive move. #zimbabwecricket
This is not the first time salaries have caused problems in Zimbabwe cricket. The players threatened a boycott before their April series against Bangladesh in protest over what they considered an unsatisfactory daily allowance for non-centrally contracted players. Then, Craig Ervine, who was not on a central contract, chose to play club cricket in the UK, instead of accepting a winter contract in Zimbabwe which was believed to be worth US$100 a week.
Now, the players are demanding compensation they believe is in line with what their counterparts in other countries are earning. While they wait for a decision to be made, they have not trained as a squad. Some have busied themselves with independent programmes but most have been involved with the formation of the union.
Zimbabwean players have never had a successfully operational players association despite many attempts at one. The 2004 white-player walkout was one such aborted attempt but the major difference between that issue and the current one is that this time, the battle is not around race, and players across the colour divide are united in their attempts to confront the board.
Mukondiwa said ZC will release a statement as soon as a resolution is reached. Zimbabwe host Pakistan for two T20s, three ODIs and two Tests, starting next Friday.
* August 16, 2013 12.55 GMT: The story has been updated with the players' decision to train
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent