Zimbabwe's Test future in doubt after clampdown

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The Independent Online

In the past four years the actions of the Zimbabwe cricket board, and the involvement of the Zimbabwe Government, has led to most of the leading players either retiring from international cricket or going on strike. Their disillusionment has been caused by those responsible for controlling the game in the country.

Several of the former players - Heath Streak, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Sean Ervine and Travis Friend - have chosen to pursue careers playing county cricket in England and Zimbabwe. Tatenda Taibu took charge of a side that is no stronger than a decent club side in the UK but he severed all ties with Zimbabwe cricket after claiming he had received threatening phone calls.

The latest strike was caused by non-payment of match fees for recent games against India and New Zealand. It led to Zimbabwe's players stating that they were not prepared to play until Peter Chingoka and Ozias Bvute, Zimbabwe Cricket's chairman and managing director respectively, were removed from office. Their action caused Robert Mugabe's government to become directly involved, and white and Asian directors being ousted from their positions on the board.

Asked if yesterday's developments spelled the end of international cricket in Zimbabwe, Clive Field, the players representative, said: "It just depends on how far the players are prepared to go now in sticking to their original concerns. If they are, I think it does mean the end because the players clearly won't play under these guys.

"I think we're stuffed, more stuffed than we've ever been. If this is the bunch that's going to deliver cricket for the next six months, I don't know what they are going to deliver at the end of it. I don't think it's going to be cricket, it's going to be a corpse."

The repercussions did not appear to worry Gibson Mashingaidze, an army brigadier and chairman of the Government's Sports and Recreation Commission. "We are prepared to be chucked out of the Test status," he said. "They [the striking players] can go to India, Canada or wherever. We are not bothered. The Government will not be held to ransom by individuals."

The ICC has yet to decide how to react to the latest developments, but the subject is certain to be debated at next week's meeting between the 10 Test-playing nations in Karachi, Pakistan. Zimbabwe are due to tour the West Indies in May and only six members of a national squad of 40 have signed their contracts.