Ozias Bvute, the managing director of Zimbabwe Cricket, has said that the doors were closed on the careers of Stuart Carlisle, Craig Wishart, Barney Rogers and Neil Ferreira after a contract dispute erupted last week.
The contracts of the four cricketers were suddenly withdrawn by Bvute as he believed that they weren't performing well enough. "The players expressed views as to what they believed they were worth," Bvute told Associated Press. "Those figures were in excess of their performances. This was not a vindictive exercise. A level one contract is offered on the basis of runs scored and wickets taken, and these players were clearly not performing."
Bvute also confirmed that the players could not play for Zimbabwe without a contract. "The door is closed for them," he said. "Even for Ferreira who has played only one match."
Other players have been told that their contracts would be considered at the end of this month, depending on how they perform in the next few weeks. This has upset the players. Carlisle told AFP: "This could even be just as serious for cricket here as the last dispute 18 months ago because this time the black players are with us."
Carlisle was at the forefront of the 2004 strike sparked by Streak's sacking for complaining about alleged racism by the selectors. He was one of 15 contracted players, all white, who backed Streak and were fired in turn. This set off months of negotiations characterised by hostilities and legal confrontations.
Carlisle said at his Harare home Saturday that he told Kevin Curran, the Zimbabwe coach, that he did not want to play against India in the last league match of the Videocon Cup, nor did Wishart. They preferred, he said, for lower-level players to be given the experience.
Carlisle said this was reported by Curran to ZC general manager Osias Bvute, who "immediately withdrew my contract and those of the others". Carlisle, who has played in 37 Tests and 112 ODIs for his country, now faces the end of his international cricket career, along with Wishart, Rogers and Ferreira, the latter after playing in just one match against New Zealand last month.
Carlisle said: "I have plans in hand, but I cannot say what they are." Carlisle and Grant Flower, who is now with Essex, were the most outspoken of the players during their 2004 dispute with ZC. All the affected contract players have held several meetings during the last two days and will have another one on Monday concerning the issue.
Clive Field, their representative, has held at least one meeting with Bvute, but the outcome is not known. Bvute was not available for comment. Those newly contracted are also unhappy with the overall situation and have been involved in meetings with the others, Field said. Streak commented: "I can confirm that there are to be further talks on this issue next week. Other than that I should not discuss it."
There was one ray of hope for these players as Clive Field, the players' representative, said "if the issue of these cricketers is not a priority then we are heading for confrontation as players feel very strongly about it."