Tatenda Taibu, former Zimbabwe captain and their convener of selectors until March, severely criticised the current administration for their treatment of players - in particular Brendan Taylor - and called on cricketers in the country to band together.
Taylor, who opted out of a Kolpak-deal with Nottinghamshire a year early to return for Zimbabwe last September, was left out of Zimbabwe's 22-man training squad to play a T20 triangular series next month, which includes Australia and Pakistan. Taylor, along with former captain Graeme Cremer, batsman Craig Ervine and allrounders Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams, have not played in the warm-up matches against Kenya, and Raza made himself unavailable for the tri-series to play in a T20 tournament in Canada instead. The other four remain available for Zimbabwe but only if their demands for a payment plan for outstanding salaries and match fees is delivered by Zimbabwe Cricket to its players by June 25.
The players are negotiating through their resurrected player association, which Taibu singled out as being driven by Taylor, and told ESPNcricinfo a union is the only way to stop ZC from intimidating younger players into playing, despite not being paid.
"I felt it was very unfair for Brendan Taylor to be targeted for doing what was right and forming a players' union," Taibu said. "It's the right thing to do, to have the players' union, but I know that if there is a players' union, the board cannot do what they are doing now.
"At the moment, the chairman (Tawengwa Mukuhlani) is in Harare holding meetings with players individually. A lot of the players are young and will be scared to stand up to the chairman. If there is a players' union in place, the board will have to speak to the players' union and there will not be able to divide and rule like they are doing. Brendan had to pay the price there, which is not right, which is what I am standing against. It takes a lot of courage for Brendan to stand up for what's right. He has my utmost respect."
Taibu initially stoked the flames with a tweet on Wednesday evening which read: "What is this? @BrendanTaylor86 tries to do the right thing by helping to set up a players union, which all the other countries have. What do the selectors and ZC do, exclude him from the series. Shame on ZC. Everything that has a beginning has an end."
He also challenged the rest of Zimbabwe players to stand with Taylor and behind the idea of a union, including those who attended Taibu's academy, Rising Stars. Taibu tweeted Brandon Mavuta, Blessing Muzarabani (who is not in the Zimbabwe squad as he is playing overseas), Tarisai Musakanda, Rugare Magarire and Tinashe Kamumhukamwe the following: "I never taught u to be divided. I taught u principal. @BrendanTaylor86 needs u 2 stand with him.u're the ones who'll benefit from his stand. If u're divided,u'll finish your career and have nothing to show 4 it."
He told ESPNcricinfo that he believed he taught his academy charges better. "When they were at the academy, I taught them principles and the right thing so I reminded them that," he said. "And I had to let the players know that what's happening to Brendan is unfair and can happen to anyone."
But Taibu's biggest challenge was issued to the senior players, in particular Elton Chigumbura, Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha, who were all named in Zimbabwe's squad. "When are you ever going to stand up for principle? When are you ever going to show youngsters the right way? Surely you can't tell me that you haven't been seeing what's been happening. Earn some respect for standing for the right thing." Taibu tweeted.
And in a series of replies to other Twitter users, including a former sports minister of Zimbabwe David Coltart, he continued to put pressure on Masakadza to "do something."
"Hamilton has a chance to do something credible by rallying the troops to stand with @BrendanTaylor86. Let's see how he wants to be remembered by the cricket world." For Taibu, it is now time for "the older generation that are in the side to stand up for what's right."
Taibu clarified that he was not calling on the players to strike but rather to insist on the formation and legitimacy of a players' union, which was reformed on June 1, but is yet to attain the signature of all the players. "People mustn't get me wrong. I am not asking them to boycott the games," Taibu said. "I am asking them to stand with Brendan and sign to have a players' association and the players' representative will take it from there. They will be consulted on decisions. That's how all the other countries operate. Why shouldn't we operate in the same way?"
Taibu also confirmed he believed part of the reason he was sacked following the failed 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign was because "I said all the things I should have said while I was in the organisation. That's why I was ousted," he said.
On Twitter, Taibu also promised a tell-all autobiography "soon."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent