There was confusion at Bulawayo's Queens Sports Club last Sunday when a purported National League match organised by Zimbabwe Cricket could not be completed after Queens officials refused to allow the game to proceed.
The row stemmed from the recent decision by leading club sides in Matabeleland and Mashonaland to boycott the official National League and form their own competition. In a bid to salvage the National League, Terry Mumbwandarika, a ZC employee, was dispatched to Matabeleland to meet with Victor Mhlanga, a former Matabeleland Cricket Association board official, in a bid to get players to play in the league. It seems that effort came to nothing.
ZC coaches, players aspiring to go to the ZC Academy and youngsters who are on the ZC scholarship scheme were brought in and two teams were put together to play against sides from Mashonaland. Local sources report that as had been the case in the Faithwear Cup, the two teams from Mashonaland contained virtually unknown players, with the exception of Innocent Chinyoka, a medium-pace bowler who has played for Zimbabwe A.
The matches started on Saturday afternoon and were supposed to be completed on Sunday morning. The second match took place at Emakhandeni, a stadium built by ZC, while Queens was the venue of the aborted match.
Meanwhile, Queens had organised a friendly match against Bulawayo Athletic Club and claimed to have notified ZC on the previous Wednesday that the ground would be unavailable.
However, on Sunday morning, Queens and BAC turned up, as did the "official" teams to complete their match. Queens and BAC tossed, but when the Queens fielders walked onto the pitch, the National League sides marched to the middle and sat on the pitch. The stalemate continued for almost two hours.
Buster Pettican, a member of the local MCA board and cricket section chairman of Queens, eventually referred the situation to Ethan Dube, the MCA chairman.
Dube then talked to Mumbwandarika and Sam Tsutsuru, the ZC-appointed Mashonaland general manager, and read out to them a section of the lease agreement between Zimbabwe Cricket and Queens Sports Club which clearly states that ZC only have first preference to the pitch for the purposes of staging international cricket only. Dave Everrington who was then the Zimbabwe Cricket Union vice-president, signed the lease on behalf of the union in 2000.
The ZC-backed teams agreed that Queens had the right to use the ground but asked to play at least 25 overs and use the Duckworth Lewis method to enable them to come up with a result. However, the Queens players refused and the Queens and BAC match went ahead smoothly.
A Queens official questioned the justification of ZC spending money is transporting the two sides from Harare - and putting them up overnight - to play in such a game. He said that in his opinion, the decision to play the National League match was down to a desire to show that the rebellion by leading clubs had had no effect on the game, and that the situation was normal.
A spokesman for ZC said that this "was an isolated incident that we have now put behind us."
Another potential row was brewing this weekend with another clash of fixtures on the cards, but Queens moved to avoid confrontation by moving their match against Bulawayo Athletic Club across to BAC's ground.