Zimbabwe's domestic players from the Mountaineers franchise, and a few senior players of the Mashonaland Eagles team, refused to take the field for a Pro50 game in Mutare on Sunday, following through with a threatened boycott over unpaid salaries. The players have extended their deadline to Monday telling Zimbabwe Cricket that unless monies appear in their accounts, the four-day fixture, scheduled to start on December 17, will also not go ahead.*
The Eagles team had traveled from Harare to Mutare for the one-dayer against the Mountaineers, without their senior players who had chosen to stay behind and honour the boycott. They were eventually awarded the match because they arrived at the ground, but the Mountaineers, the home side, didn't. Another Pro50 match between Southern Rocks and Mid West Rhinos got underway in Kwekwe. However, Rhinos players Brendan Taylor, Vusi Sibanda and Malcolm Waller were not a part of the playing XI.
On Friday, Zimbabwe cricketers had threatened to go on strike following delays in the payment of their salaries and had given their board a deadline of December 15 to pay up. It was learnt that players on national contract had not received payments for the last four months, while dues to players on domestic contracts had been delayed by two months.
ESPNcricinfo understands Zimbabwe Cricket has asked the ICC for an additional loan of US$3 million but an insider said the ICC may only agree to that if ZC provided an audit of the funds they received from the Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme earlier this year. Some of that money is believed to have been used to pay match fees for the Pakistan series, over which the Zimbabwe players threatened to strike.
In August this year, the Zimbabwe cricketers had formed a union to participate in salary negotiations prior to the series against Pakistan. The board's financial condition also resulted in Sri Lanka's tour to the country in October being deferred. That delay meant the national team would not play from September until February next year, and a lack of match practice was a major concern ahead of the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
This week a solution emerged with Afghanistan willing to pay their own way for three T20s and an ODI in Zimbabwe in January. It has now emerged that ZC is exploring the possibility of playing those matches in Bangladesh, rather than at home. Part of the rationale for that is to acclimatise to subcontinent conditions but it is understood that a lack of funding is also a consideration.
The domestic competitions in Zimbabwe, scheduled to begin in November, were also delayed due to financial problems but the tournaments were finally held without any sponsors.
* 0852GMT, December 15, 2013. This article has been updated with news of the players' boycott