The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
INTERNATIONAL sport returns to Zimbabwe when the Chevrons travel to Pakistan for a limited-overs cricket series later this month.
A smooth series — the first since the coronavirus struck in March — played in a strict isolated environment featuring repeated Covid-19 testing and social distancing, can lay the blueprint for future matches and tours, but more importantly, it is hoped the Pakistan trip will usher in a new era in cricket for Zimbabwe.
Multan will host the three ODI series matches slated for October 30-November 3, before Zimbabwe wrap up their three-week stay with three T20Is from November 7-10 in Rawalpindi.
But before that, Zimbabwe’s cricketers mark their return to action when the National Premier League — a nine-team tournament expected to run for the next three weeks — returns this morning with four matches expected to be played at several venues across the country.
Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani was the picture of confidence during the tournament’s launch on Wednesday, which at best can be described as “extravagant”.
What would have ordinarily been announced via a press statement, or a small presser was replaced with all the bells and whistles of a ZC event of old.
Full-blown entertainment, the launch, parading of new kits, the trophy, and speeches by ZC’s Big Three — Mukuhlani, director of Cricket Hamilton Masakadza, and acting managing Director Givemore Makoni — were the order of the day.
“Was it a bit much, probably,” said Mukuhlani. But you can imagine we are coming from six months of no cricket action and six months of a pandemic.
“This (return of the NPL) is a big deal for us and we are excited to be back.
“We are excited to enter into this new era of Zimbabwean cricket,” said Mukuhlani.
The return of the NPL is no ordinary return, as going forward, it is Mukuhlani’s hope that the tournament forms the backbone of the organisation and cricket in Zimbabwe as a whole.
“When we were restructuring the debts of Zimbabwe Cricket and working out the financials, we said once we are done with this, our first protocol would be to relaunch and readdress club cricket for the men and first classcricket for the ladies.
“This is a big thing for us; we set ourselves goals, and we managed to achieve said goals.”
Mukuhlani also assured the country that the kinks of the past, pertaining to club cricket and the NPL, “are a thing of the past as they were mostly financial woes’’.
ZC is now in good financial standing.
“This will be an ongoing programme, one we hope will only get better with every edition.
“You can’t develop cricket without a sound club structure and it must have a relegation and promotion policy to encourage competition and strengthen itself. The problems of the past were mostly financial and we are now in good standing.
“We have cleared our bank loans, which stood at US$10 million, cleared our US$3 million ICC debt and serviced our legacy debts. We are now like any other business in that we have 2020 creditors like any normal business practice, but we are no longer in the red,” he said.
Mukuhlani also cleared the air on the status of Chevrons head coach Lalchand Rajput, who he said would be joining the team in the coming days from his India base. Upon his arrival, Rajput is expected to take his charges through their paces before flying off with the team to Pakistan for the limited overs series.
Midwest v Takashinga (Kwekwe Sports Club)
Great Zimbabwe v Harare Kings (Masvingo Sports Club)
Rainbow V Gladiators (Harare Sports Club)
Queens V Amakhosi (Queens Sports Club)