Zimbabwe news July 17, 2014

Zimbabwe's Southern Rocks franchise dissolved

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and its franchises will contract 55 players for the 2014-15 season, which will also see a shrinking of the domestic game. While 15 central contracts have been awarded and 40 domestic players will be signed up, the number of franchises has been cut from five to four with the Southern Rocks the team to have been dissolved.

The announcement brings certainty to a situation which has hovered in limbo since a series of player strikes of non-payment hit Zimbabwean cricket last summer. Financial difficulties meant that players - both national and domestic - went up to four months without salaries. They protested by boycotting the local competitions which caught the attention of the ICC.

In March, ICC CEO David Richardson and chief financial officer Faisal Hasnian visited Zimbabwe and recommended a series of cost-cutting measures including reducing the number of franchises and cricketers on contract. Now it appears ZC are implementing some of those measures as they look to reach stable ground which enable them to fulfill their international obligations.

Fielding a full-strength national side is the most important step to doing that and Zimbabwe's central contracts should make that easier. Along with the expected names of Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Prosper Utseya and Elton Chigumbura, Zimbabwe have contracted batsmen Sikandar Raza and Regis Chakabva and bowlers including Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara. Sean Williams, who was one of the players unsure of his position last season, has also been contracted.

In addition to those deals, ZC has also secured the services of six more players for international fixtures over the off-season through winter contracts. These agreements, which are typically three to four months long, will ensure the players are available for the Test against South Africa in August and the tri-series which follows and also includes Australia.

Most notable among the six winter contractees is Mark Vermeulen, the 35-year old batsman with a troubled past who is determined to give himself the best chance of playing international cricket again. The list also includes wicketkeeper Richmond Mutumbami, promising seamers Michael Chinouya and Donald Tiripano, offspinner John Nyumbu and batsman Timycen Maruma.

All six players on winter contracts will form part of the 40 that are contracted domestically as well. That means there is room for a further 34 cricketers to receive franchises deals in Zimbabwe which will run for the 2014-15 season. Previously, each of the five franchises contracted seven players - giving Zimbabwe a total of 35 on domestic retainers - so although the number of teams has been cut, the number of players who will earn money from the game has increased.

The Southern Rocks were expected to become defunct in April because they were regarded as the most financially unsustainable team in Zimbabwe's system. Apart from the costs involved in maintaining the facilities, housing players and transporting them to Masvingo - which lies 280 km south of Harare and the same distance east of Bulawayo, making it the least accessible franchise in terms of location - the Rocks only had sparse successes.

Although they won the 40-over competition in the second season of franchise cricket in 2010-11 the Rocks were mostly a middling side who struggled in first-class cricket in particular. Where they were adequate was in producing players for Zimbabwe, the most prominent of whom is left-arm seamer Brian Vitori.

ZC had a choice between holding on to the franchise in the hope it could be a source of development or sacrificing a team for the greater monetary good, at a time when the administration was suffering from spiraling debt. The latter always looked the better option. Add to that that ZC has lost many of the coaches it would use in the franchise system, with Grant Flower involved in Pakistan, Heath Streak in Bangladesh and Gary Brent no longer heading up the academy, the decision to erode the Southern Rocks appears practical.

If it means ZC will be able to pay players for the full duration of the 2014-15 season and meet all its commitments for incoming tours, it could also be a masterstroke in restoring the country's cricket credibility.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2014, 10:17 GMT

    i'm really saddened by the dissolvement of Southern Rocks.i played for their B- side in the 2010-11 season and to be honest Masvingo has lost out because we have so much talent going down the drain. what is going to happen to the age-group cricket. we have 6 or more age group players representing Zim from under 14 right through to under 19.right now the club structures are in shumbles and Z.C hasn't done enough to resuscitate the game.can z.c re-look at the area manager post they awarded to the guy from Takashinga. we need someone from Masvingo (wezhira) dedicated to develop and expose talent. Masvingo is ghost town i agree... but we need our own ghosts running the show.#

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2014, 6:12 GMT

    Please tell ZCKOutcast that I am NOT the ex Test Captain,,he , as always, is erroneous and misguided in his comments. My association with Zimbabwe cricket starts in 1972 as a player, then an administrator and then as a commentator. Thousands involved ???? More pipe dreams. And PS I do not have to hide behind a nomme de plume.

  • Graham on July 17, 2014, 17:44 GMT

    Brian Murphy is correct in comment...Maybe some more minor county players from the UK like Bradley Wadlan (Mid West Rhinos) can arrive to show the local "first class" players how it should be done ...as there are now no specialist coaches helping Zimbabwe cricket the lads need all the help they can get!

  • ESPN on July 17, 2014, 14:02 GMT

    I feel sad for Zim cricket. They have some very talented youth who are going to waste. I hope the ICC supports these minor teams

  • ZCF on July 17, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    Former Captain Murphy strikes again. ZIM beat PAK recently, while BD - although many times stronger than the sides your ZIM peers faced - are still weaker than ZIM - a lot of whose players have another 6-8 years to go at the highest level. For the next 20 years ZIM can be able to select 5 unique XIs which will be able to beat 5 unique selections from BD, IRE, NED&AFG in Test matches. With retiremens of older experienced players, WI, SL&Pak are in danger of falling to ZIM's level than ZIM is of falling down to the Associates. I strongly doubt that the curent ENG Test side can beat ZIM in Zimbabwe. Thanks to ZC, and the position adopted in ZIM generally, thousands are involved in the game despite the financial issues affecting ZC&the country at large. More than enough time to collapse and rebuild the game in the next 20 years. In fact, assuming it hasn't already, International cricket is in greater danger of dying than cricket in ZIM dying or being unsustainable.

  • Dummy4 on July 17, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    4 franchises only, no club cricket and schools cricket is now pathetically weak...how can they sustain test status ???

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