Zimbabwe Cricket's player contracts debate took a surprise turn after the board withdrew the contract offers to three players - Stuart Carlisle, Neil Ferreira and Barney Rogers.
On Thursday, ZC announced that only three players - Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu and Andy Blignaut - would get long-term contracts, but four other senior players, Trevor Gripper, Doug Marillier, Mark Vermuelen and Mluleki Nkala, did not even make the initial list of 27 players to get the level-one performance-based contracts.
The board said that the decision to give short-term performance-related contracts had resulted from recent poor displays. "It's a strange decision," one of the players made the offer said. "It's completely taken everyone by surprise. It's a body blow. We are not sure of the reasons why ZC had to resort to such a move. It hasn't helped morale at all ahead of the next game (on Sunday against India).
"The players feel strongly about the issue. The guys have discussed it and felt that they should just go on and play tomorrow to keep cricket going, but they are completely devastated by the decision."
Carlisle has been struggling with form since returning to the side following the rebel strike. But Ferreira and Rogers are two of the most talented and promising young players in Zimbabwe. Insiders suggest that the two might have had clashes with certain ZC board members. Rogers was a surprise omission from the Test series with New Zealand, and the Videocon one-day tri-series, raising rumours of a clash with the selectors. Ferreira was rather harshly discarded after his debut Test against New Zealand, and that followed a long period of him being inexplicably overlooked.
Gripper, Marillier and Vermuelen, the other players cast into the wilderness, have previously fallen out with ZC, and Gripper's father was identified by ZC officials as being one of the main figures in last year's player strike. Nkala, one of the more experienced young players in the team, is the chairman of the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers' Association.