Craig Ervine, Zimbabwe's leading run-scorer across all three formats on their recent tour of West Indies, has refused a winter contract and will not be part of the series against Bangladesh. Ervine has instead opted to play club cricket in the UK. Meanwhile, the threatened player boycott has been averted after eight players signed winter contracts.
He is one of three players who decided not to take up Zimbabwe Cricket's offer. The other two, Sean Williams and uncapped Pakistan-born Sikandar Raza, are still in discussions with the board.
All-rounder Keegan Meth and bowlers Shingi Masakadza and Tendai Chatara, who were a part of the squad that toured Caribbean, are among the players who have signed the winter contracts. The team has resumed training, after only the centrally contracted players took to the field while negotiations were on-going.
Ervine, who has played four Tests since Zimbabwe made their Test comeback in 2011, has not made the reason for his decision public, but a source close to the players told ESPNcricinfo that the money offered by ZC amounted to only US$100 a week. He is likely to earn at least double that overseas. His brother, Sean, walked away from Zimbabwe Cricket, seeking stability in the UK, and there are fears more players could do the same in the future.
Though Zimbabwe's preparations for the Bangladesh series, which begins in nine days, are back on track, the financial situation in ZC is still unresolved. An insider revealed that although the centrally contracted players "don't have many complaints" over what they earn, the situation among franchise players is dire.
Franchise cricketers are contracted for seven months of the year on low salaries, which according to one player only "pays for the rent". They are left to fend for themselves for the other five months and most of them try to play overseas in that time. However, since ZC tries to schedule international fixtures during the winter, they often have to choose between higher income from club cricket and playing for their country, where they only earn match fees.
A player, who did not want to named, said monies are often paid late or not at all. "Every single cricketer in Zimbabwe is owed money of some sort," he said. "We are due to be paid from our franchise contracts on the last day of the month. Sometimes by the 10th of the next month, we still don't have our money. Some people may say we are greedy, but we have bills to pay. It's sad that it pays more to play club cricket abroad than it does for the country, but that's the way it is."
With that in mind, those who have accepted winter contracts will be aware that they have signed up for some uncertainty. Their contracts will cover four tours, including the Bangladesh series, the three ODIs against India and series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Franchise cricketers will be given fresh contracts from September 1, while new central contracts will be announced in August.