The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
THE good news is that Zimbabwe’s proposed India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland and Afghanistan tours, while temporarily put on ice, are not dead in the water.
This is because the fate of the Chevrons’ trips to Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and visits by India and Afghanistan can now only be decided after the International Cricket Council (ICC) host their next Chief Executives’ Committee meeting.
The bad news, however, is that due to a combination of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases over the last couple of weeks, and the start of the men’s ODI World Cup Super League, there will be no more cricket for the remainder of the year.
This was revealed by Zimbabwe Cricket chairperson Tavengwa Mukuhlani during a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Mail Sport.
“Our calendar year is over,” said Mukuhlani. “We had hoped that we would use the period to resume domestic cricket, but a combination of the spike in cases and Government’s new measures to contain the said increase means that we can no longer play any meaningful cricket. It is for that reason that we decided that the Chevrons break camp.”
To say the last 12 months have been torrid for the ZC boss is an understatement.
First, Zimbabwe was suspended by the ICC, which Mukuhlani describes as “hitting rock bottom” and the worst period in his time at the helm of the ZC.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the ICC in July 2020, before being reinstated in October later that year.
During that time, the ICC’s funding was frozen and Zimbabwe was not allowed to participate in the qualifying tournaments for the men’s T20 World Cup, as well as the women’s event.
“It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has been tough, but it has affected everyone. But with the suspension, we were alone, and it was really like hitting rock bottom.
“We faced the prospect of losing our Test status, ranking and the prospect of becoming an Associate nation, after which we would have to fight our way back,” said Mukuhlani.
Still, he took the whole debacle in his stride and considers it to be a learning curve.
“The biggest takeaway from the suspension was that it taught us the need for unity of purpose.
“There is a need for all stakeholders from the ministry, the administrators, players and fans to work together, open dialogue and try to see things from each other’s point of view,” he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic comes with its own challenges and Mukuhlani appears to have been hardest hit by the virus, which has disrupted his life on three fronts — as ZC chair, his work as a Member of Parliament for Mhondoro-Ngezi and from a business standpoint.
“The pandemic has affected every facet of my life, both professionally and personally. I am into pharmaceuticals manufacturing, based in Bulawayo, and business has been hit hard.
“So, yeah, it has been tough,” he said.
Mukuhlani believes had the pandemic not struck, 2020 could have been the best year of his ZC tenure.
“The worst thing about this pandemic is that this was supposed to be one of our best years in office.
“We have done well to cover much of the legacy debt, which stood at US$27 million, but has trickled down to just US$1 million, if not less.
“We implemented a raft of measures that included salary cuts, reduced expenditure and layoffs, and were in good standing at the end of our financial year. We were supposed to have one of our busiest calendar years — with tours against India, Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ireland — but that was before Covid-19.
“Now all have been postponed, and we will continue to monitor the situation with hope of fitting them in some of the available windows opened up by the postponement of the next three ICC men’s events. The financial impact of the failed tours is minimal as only India’s visit here would have brought something into our coffers, but you can’t put a price on game time.
“The boys were also looking forward to touring Australia,” he said.
The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will now be held in October-November 2021, while the 2022 edition will be held during the same period.
Further, the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup has been pencilled in for October-November 2023. This now opens the way for a bi-lateral series to be negotiated in-between these events and the Indian Premier League.