Uncertainty continues in Zimbabwe cricket
Zimbabwe's domestic competitions will not resume as scheduled this weekend as the country's players continue with their strike over non-payments. The fifty-over matches between the Eagles and Rocks in Harare and Tuskers and Mountaineers in Bulawayo as well as the four-day fixtures between the same teams which were due to begin on Monday have been cancelled.
That means the impasse between the cricketers and the board has extended to more than a month. Zimbabwe's players first downed tools on December 15, which led to a fifty-over match between the Mountaineers and the Eagles not taking place and two Logan Cup matches also being cancelled.
At the time, national players said they had not been paid for four months, while franchise cricketers, whose contracts only kicked in at the start of the season, had gone two months without salaries. Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) said they could not "provide guarantees of specific dates" for payments but remained "committed to paying November salaries at the earliest possible time".
Players have yet to receive any money and have vowed to stay off the field until they do. "We are saying we won't play until we get what we deserve. This has been going on for too long," one player, who asked not to be named, told ESPNcricinfo.
According to ZC, the domestic competition can't resume because of fitness concerns after a long festive break. The board also said that they are still brokering an agreement on payment.
"In a meeting in Harare last night to look at the resumption, it was agreed that January 18 is not feasible because the players, who have been on a long festive season break, need time to work on their fitness and match-preparedness," a release from ZC said. "Zimbabwe Cricket officials told the meeting of the efforts that they are making to raise the money to pay the outstanding salaries and match fees."
Although the ongoing boycott meant Afghanistan's visit to Zimbabwe had to be cancelled, there may be light at the end of the tunnel as early as next week. ZC is in talks with a potential sponsor and if the deal comes off, they could have the funds needed to pay players and resume local competition.
Cash-flow is the root of the organisation's problems and has been highlighted several times in the last two years, in which players have complained about numerous salary delays. It is understood they owe Metbank, a local financial institution, US$15 million and are in discussions to manage that debt. They have also asked the ICC to advance a loan of US$3 million to them in order to play.
It is understood the ICC was only willing to consider the amount if they receive an audit from ZC explaining their financial model. While neither party could confirm if the loan was still in the works, Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor hinted at it when he tweeted "Hopefully @cricketicc can pull some strings," on January 7. It is learnt that KPMG will be conducting an audit of ZC's finances.
Two days later, Taylor also urged his team-mates to start practising, an activity they have also boycotted, ahead of Zimbabwe's next international assignment, the World T20 in March. "Two months before we travel to Bangladesh for the T20 world cup. Lets get training," he posted.
Zimbabwe have not had any international cricket since Pakistan toured there in September. A planned trip by Sri Lanka was cancelled because of lack of funds and the Afghanistan tour also scuppered. With limited domestic match-time as well, their plans for the World T20 have been thrown into disarray but if cricket can resume next weekend, they may be able to get back to on track.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent