Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani has said that despite enduring among the worst years in the country's cricket history, the board has emerged stronger over the past 12 months, with the body able to almost pay off its legacy debts amounting to USD 27 million.

Zimbabwe had been suspended from the ICC in July 2019 before they were reinstated in October later that year. During that time, the ICC's funding was frozen and Zimbabwe were not allowed to participate in the qualifying tournaments for the men's T20 World Cup as well as the women's event. Soon after they were reinstated, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, which led to further cancellations of tours, including a limited-overs tour by India, which ZC was counting on to shore up finances. Ireland's tour of Zimbabwe was also called off in the wake of the coronavirus.

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However, Zimbabwe's players have now resumed training after having passed their Covid-19 tests earlier this month. Zimbabwe are supposed to host Afghanistan in July-August for a five-match T20I series before travelling to Australia to play three ODIs.

"Perhaps the biggest irony of our lifetime, the very same horrible year saw us making huge strides towards making ZC debt-free," Mukuhlani said during the board's annual general meeting that was held virtually. "At the close of the just-ended financial year, we had whittled the USD 27 million legacy debt down to USD 1 million, in the process breaking the chains that had enslaved our organisation to an unending cycle of financial troubles."

Mukuhlani said ZC had managed to repay that debt by careful planning and "an intricate debt resolution plan" from the time he took charge in 2015. The repaid amounts included an obligation of USD 6 million to the ICC as well as loans worth up to USD 10 million that were housed under the Zimbabwe Asset Management Company (ZAMCO).

"Under the arrangement, we were supposed to settle the ZAMCO obligations by 2023 but, as we take stock of the period under review, I am proud to report that - a whole three years earlier - ZC is nearly debt-free," Mukuhlani said. He added that, with a significant portion of debt cleared, the focus would now be on the revival of club cricket and the re-establishment of a national academy.

Apart from revitalising first-class cricket in the country, a provincial women's competition was also in the works.

ZC's acting managing director Givemore Makoni also reiterated that the organisation would prioritise boosting its game development as well as domestic and international cricket structures.

"The beauty of the mess - an oxymoron if ever there was one - was our ability to make the most of the difficult situation," he said. "This would not have been possible without the commitment, hard work and massive sacrifices made by our management and staff who had to face layoffs, take pay cuts and operate within shoe-string budgets to ensure cricket continued being played at all levels.

"The difficulties we faced - and conquered - in 2019-20 could only prepare us for a better future."