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Zimbabwe players ready to 'play for free but to be paid late'

The focus of the cricketers is to participate in the upcoming women's and men's T20 World Cup qualifiers

Liam Brickhill
Liam Brickhill
The Zimbabwe fielders celebrate a wicket, Bangladesh v Zimbabwe, 3rd ODI, Chittagong, October 26, 2018

The Zimbabwe fielders celebrate a wicket  •  AFP

Zimbabwe's cricketers will play for free if need be in order to keep cricket in the country alive.
"We will play for free as long as we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," a senior squad member told ESPNcricinfo. "Our next assignment is the (T20 World Cup) qualifiers. I will play for free as long as we are assured that we will be paid eventually. We will play qualifiers for the sake of cricket staying alive and for free but to be paid late and not never."
Another player confirmed a willingness to sacrifice in the short term to ensure the long-term survival of cricket and playing careers, saying: "As long as there's a future and you can see that things are going to fall into place, I have no doubt that most guys would."
The qualifiers remain the focus for Zimbabwe's cricketers - men and women - although they have been barred from taking part in those events under the terms of their suspension by the ICC. Four members of the national women's team were also dropped from the ICC's Global Development Squad, but their exclusion does not extend to all cricket.
Zimbabwe are still technically able to play in bilateral series while under suspension. It is understood that the ICC will still appoint match officials for bilateral series that Zimbabwe host. But, at the moment, that likely means players playing for free, and Zimbabwe Cricket is in any case unable to host incoming tours without ICC funding. The Sports and Recreation Commission, which has put an interim committee in place to run cricket in the country, has said there is a contingency plan to deal with player welfare while Zimbabwe are under suspension, but the details of this plan have not apparently been communicated to the players.
Neither of the two senior national squads has been paid in the last two months, and the men were not paid match fees during their recent tour of the Netherlands and Ireland.
It appears increasingly unlikely that Zimbabwe will be able to take part in the women's T20 qualifiers in August, or the men's chapter in October. Zimbabwe were scheduled to host Afghanistan in August, before travelling to Bangladesh for a tri-series in September. The Future Tours Programme mentions that Zimbabwe will then host West Indies for a Test and five ODIs in October and November, before travelling to India for three T20Is in January next year. Zimbabwe have two Tests against Sri Lanka scheduled straight afterwards, before a trip to Bangladesh in March and a maiden Test against Ireland in Zimbabwe in April.
While these fixtures have not been cancelled outright, in reality there is no chance whatsoever of Zimbabwe hosting any cricket while under suspension, whether the players are paid or not. ZC is entirely reliant on ICC funding to host incoming cricket tours, which - apart from Indian visits - could end up as loss-making enterprises.

Liam Brickhill is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent