Zimbabwe strike delays domestic season

Uncertainty surrounds the resumption of domestic cricket in Zimbabwe after a player strike over a contractual dispute prevented the start of the first-class competition on Tuesday

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Sean Williams at his delivery stride, Zimbabwe v South Africa, only Test, Harare, 2nd day, August 10, 2014

Sean Williams was due to be playing for Matabeleland Tuskers  •  AFP

Uncertainty surrounds the resumption of domestic cricket in Zimbabwe after a player strike over a contractual dispute prevented the start of the first-class competition on Tuesday.
Players did not take the field in the matches between Mashonaland Eagles and Mid-West Rhinos and Matabeleland Tuskers and ZC confirmed the suspension of the tournament while it meets with the players' association, whose secretary general Eliah Zvimba urged the players to take the field pending discussions.
ESPNcricinfo understands Zimbabwe's franchise players are particularly unhappy over the earn-as-you-play deals and would prefer each team to have a full-squad of contracted players. Currently, only 10 players are contracted per franchise - something ZC made provision for in July. Then, they announced that 55 cricketers would have employment across the board, with 15 central contracts and the remaining 40 spread evenly across the four sides.
Non-contracted players, who would be needed in XIs particularly when the national team are in action as they are at the moment, would be paid per appearance, which has been the source of dissatisfaction in the player camp. "We cannot have that, especially in our economy which is unstable as it is," Zvimba told ESPNcricinfo. "Players need a guarantee about income."
Zvimba was due to meet with ZC administration last Friday to discuss the issue but was unable to because both the chairman Wilson Manase and managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa were at the ICC meeting in Dubai. Instead, they had requested an audience with Zvimba the day before, but he was unavailable.
The meeting has now been rescheduled to this Friday. Zvimba confirmed he has urged the players to take the field before then for the first-class matches but assured them if an agreement is not reached, he will support them in further action. "If nothing is agreed, we will push for what belongs to the players," Zvimba said.
Whether or not matches will resume on Wednesday remains unclear. ZC said it was "surprised," with the players' boycott and had "no choice but to suspend domestic matches until the players make themselves available." Zvimba has encouraged the players to do exactly that, which could see the competition resume before the talks.
This is Zimbabwe's second domestic player strike in as many seasons and, once again, threatens to cripple the game. Last season, Zimbabwe's domestic competition was halted for nearly two months from mid-December to mid-February after players refused to take the field over a similar dispute.
Then, the players were protesting against unpaid salaries. This time, the dispute centres on who is paid rather than if, which could suggest ZC are at least creating certainty for some cricketers but whether that will be able to coax the likes of Graeme Cremer out of retirement remains to be seen.
It already caused a raised eyebrow from one other Zimbabwean player. Kyle Jarvis, the former international pace bowler who now plays for Lancashire and has returned as an overseas player for Rhinos, tweeted: "Good start to the zim 4day domestic season. Game called off with all the teams on strike. Sad to see this is all still going on."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent