Tinashe Kusema Deputy Sports Editor
The writing was splashed on the wall for all to see.
The cricket gods had done their part, tripping shorter version experts Mashonaland Eagles’ out of the Pro50 Championship to pave way for a Southern Rocks final appearance.
Southern Rocks’ last game was a final against Mountaineers.
Unfortunately, in a cruel twist of fate their swansong was neither a fairy tale all would have wanted it to be nor was it the story of an underdog causing a major upset.
Everything went according to form, with Rocks exiting from the local cricket scene with defeat to favourites Mountaineers.
The favourites hardly broke a sweat on their way to a seven wicket victory, easily chasing down the paltry 175 target.
Rocks hardly showed up on the day, with only Tendai Chisoro showing some form of fight on his way to 42 runs off 66 balls.
Chisoro starred in a 63-run partnership with Luke Jongwe as they helped get their team get to three figures after their initial slump saw them reeling at 78 for seven.
Rocks have shut up shop and will be remembered as the team that lost its last game, a final.
The franchise is victim of Zimbabwe Cricket’s cost-cutting measures.
Their demise is just one among a cocktail of measures that will see a revamped domestic structure for the 2014-15 season.
The changes will also include trimming of contracted players under ZC.
In their letter to Rocks, ZC said their decision to disband the franchise is meant to make sure that the cash-strapped local game survives a day longer.
“The visit by the ICC CEO was pursuant to ICC’s decision to work with ZC to reduce its existing cost and base and come up with a business plan which included, inter alia, reviewing the structure of the domestic cricket, including the number of professional cricketers supported by ZC and the number of franchises” reads an extract of the letter.
ZC argues that placing Southern Rocks players at the four remaining franchises — Mountaineers, Mashonaland Eagles, Matabeleland Tuskers and Midwest Rhinos — will improve competition in the local league.
However, this argument fails to hold water when it’s learnt that ZC also intends to cut the number of contracted players.
ZC needs to answer some serious questions. What happens to the clubs and schools that used to benefit from Rocks’ expertise?
What does the disbanding of the franchise mean to cricket in Masvingo province?
ZC is expected to make a formal announcement on the issue before the start of the 2014-15 season.
Hopefully, all these questions will then be answered.
For now, all that’s left to do is celebrate the mildly successful and entertaining history of Southern Rocks. Formerly Centrals, the franchise adopted the name Southern Rocks in 2009.
The team was made of players mostly from the Masvingo and the Matabeleland South area and used Masvingo Sports Club as its home ground. Their success is best understood not in terms of the numbers of trophies they won but strength of character.
In terms of accolades and achievements, the team reached the semi-finals of the fifty-over competition in their first season and won the tournament in the following year.
They did not have as much success in the twenty-over tournament, where they finished last and third, or the first-class game.
The 2010 50-over triumph will go down in history as the only trophy that Southern Rocks had in their cabinet.
However, a closer look at their set-up will tell a more successful story.
Best known for their team work and strength of character, not to forget exciting characters, the franchise produced some extremely talented players, most of whom made it into the national team.
Some players also used the franchise to resurrect careers.
Among the talented national team players that starred for Rocks are Brian Vitori, Sikandar Raza Butt, Craig Ervine and Tafadzwa Kamungozi.
Among those who either resurrected or attempted to resurrect their careers are the likes Tinashe Panyangara, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Chamu Chibhabha, Mark Vermeulen, Alistar Maregwede, Sean Ervine and Blessing Mahwire.
On the high-profile and flowery characters Rocks was at one time home to Kenyan legends Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo as well as shrewd tactician Monte Lynch.
One of the world’s greatest batsmen, Brian Lara, also had a stint with the franchise.
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