Nick Chouhan, chairman of the Mashonaland league and discipline committee, is delighted that more adult cricket is to be played in Mashonaland than ever before this coming season.
The Vigne Cup, the Mashonaland provincial competition that began on 16 September this season, has been expanded to include 34 clubs in five leagues. With 16 teams playing in the Saturday afternoon friendly league, that gives a total of 50 clubs in the province.
The first three leagues are all composed of six teams, while 16 development sides will play in the fourth and fifth leagues. These will include three teams from small centres outside Harare: Bindura, Shamva and Marondera.
Mr Chouhan says that, when placing teams in the various leagues, two factors were taken into account: playing strength against strength, and integration, which meant an equal number of `black' and `white' clubs in each league. It is still a sad legacy of the past that, for various reasons, the races are still polarized into clubs that can be classified according to colour; we still await the emergence of genuine multi-racial clubs.
Zimbabwe's current economic hardships have hit the clubs, who can no longer survive on members' subscriptions and club funds alone. So the Mashonaland Cricket Association has now agreed to assist clubs, giving each team Z$25 000 for such items and lunches and transport, and both match and practice balls. They will also donate new kit to teams from the second league downwards. They are organizing appeals to the public to donate second-hand cricket kit, and boxes will be provided for these donations at the coming one-day internationals in Harare.
The increase in the number of teams playing in the league has made match venues a problem, as many do not have their own grounds. MCA will also assist financially schools who are making their grounds available for club cricket: Prince Edward, Churchill (three fields each), Lord Malvern (two fields) and Westridge (one field).
The number of schools playing cricket has also increased, with a record 43 teams, up ten from last year, taking part in the recent schools festival at Prince Edward. A primary schools league competition has been in operation for more than ten years. Cricket in Mashonaland province is flourishing.