ZC close to clinching sponsorship deal
Zimbabwe Cricket are close to clinching a sponsorship deal which could lead to the resumption of domestic cricket in the next few weeks. ESPNcricinfo understands ZC have been in positive talks with Lay's, the potato chip company, who are interesting in backing them.
Although the deal will not cover the total cost of salaries ZC owes their players, it is expected to provide a portion of it. ZC are also hopeful of securing a loan from the ICC, which could ensure they have the funds needed for the game to restart.
Their request for a loan was subject to an audit of ZC's financials which was completed last week. ZC are now waiting to hear from the ICC about whether the money will be made available to them and on what terms. Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor hinted the decision could be finalised at the ICC board meeting, which starts tomorrow. He tweeted: "A massive week for us. We all hope some positives come out for ZC and all involved at the ICC meeting in Dubai on Wed. #fingerscrossed."
Initially, ZC asked US$3 million from the ICC, which would cover both the outstanding payment amount (believed to be in the region of US$700,000) and enable them to stage domestic games. The money will not see ZC move completely into the black. They remain steeped in debt to the tune of approximately US$15 million.
While cash-flow problems are not new to Zimbabwean cricket, they have recently become serious enough to disrupt the game. There has been no cricket in Zimbabwe since mid-December, when franchise players went on strike because of non-payment. As a result, there have only been two first-class matches and three fifty-over matches played since Zimbabwe's series against Pakistan last September.
Incoming tours from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan were cancelled while Zimbabwe also had to turn down an offer to play a one-off Test in South Africa because of the financial problems and subsequent refusal of players to take the field. That has left the players with little practice ahead of the World T20 in March, something they are keen to rectify as soon as possible.
An insider confirmed the national players are staying match fit by staging warm-up games against the under-19 team but hope to have other competitive cricket as they prepare for the World T20.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent