The task force, led by an American named Dr Zackrison, reported in March 2001 recommending a quota system in team and squad selection. The ZCU, which had tried to be proactive in anticipation of government pressure for more non-whites in the national side, was delighted. But the means by which it has since sought to achieve these `goals' led eventually to the strike by white rebels last month.
The ZCU's mission statement in Zackrison's final document said the quota system must be accompanied by "the least possible reduction in individual and team performance". In fact there has been rapid and manifest decline. The minimum of six non-whites in any Test or one-day side is palpably unrealistic. Excluded white players of varying ages have retired prematurely. Malcolm Jarvis (fitness trainer) and Kevin Curran (assistant coach) were sacked after the World Cup without explanation.
But, when Zimbabwe's reconstituted team of fringe players and youngsters, all but one of them black, were bowled out in April by Sri Lanka for 35, a record low score in a one-day international, the ZCU propaganda machine was more forthcoming. Senior officials claimed that Vince Hogg, its white managing director, along with the white groundsman Robin Brown, had sabotaged the Harare pitch overnight.
Hogg has been reduced to little more than a pen-pusher at the ZCU. With its chairman Peter Chingoka a figurehead, cricket in Zimbabwe is run by a small politicised caucus: Macsood Ebrahim and Steven Mangongo, the two selectors with minimal playing experience whom the rebels want replaced, the powerful Ozias Bvute, whom they see as a government `plant' and whose pre-strike brief was an annual increase in the quota system, Givemore Makoni, another political appointment, and Elvis Sembezeya.
The last two have both received bans from domestic cricket for racial abuse during games and Makoni reportedly head-butted the nephew of the convenor of selectors during a league match. His club, Takashinga, founded by Andy Flower and his father Bill for non-whites in the early 1990s, now has a reputation for overt racism and threw Henry Olonga out after his black armband statement at the World Cup.
Under this regime the domestic game is suffering in all areas. Dire financial straits have virtually wiped out club cricket and reduced the first-class structure to the verge of collapse. Yet the ZCU sent all its 12 directors with partners to Australia on a fully paid business trip last October when Zimbabwe's two Tests there happily coincided with the Rugby World Cup. Double standards are common-place. While the Strang brothers, Bryan and Paul, were recently banned from playing domestic cricket as a result of political comments, two cricketers whom the ZCU sacked from its employ are permitted to play: Darlington Matambanadzo, who went AWOL from work for a month, and Innocent Chinyoka, who allegedly stole a team-mate's vehicle and personal belongings during a match in Kwekwe.
Within the ZCU administration non-whites are fast-tracked into positions of authority. Twelve months ago the four general managers of the provinces were white. Today only one is left, in Manicaland. The other three have been replaced by non-whites with political agendas.
Ebrahim actually told Ken Connolly of Midlands, a province with an excellent integration and development record, that he was no longer required because he was white. Makoni, implicated in a financial scandal surrounding Mashonaland's provincial finances, has replaced him.
Cricket in Zimbabwe is self-destructing on the back of corruption and political interference before the blind eye of the ICC.
Geoffrey Dean is a cricket writer for the Times.
This article was first published in the June issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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