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Zimbabwe Cricket spiralling into abyss — Stuart Carlisle

FORMER national cricket team player Stuart Carlisle has broken his silence on the demise of the sport in Zimbabwe. Below is his statement:

As a former national player, I have maintained my silence in the last decade since we retired or resigned from national cricket at the end of the so-called “Rebel” days. I have remained silent out of respect for the sport I still love. However, the 9-0 drubbing our national side has just suffered at the hands of Bangladesh across both Test and one-day international (ODI) formats has coerced me to speak out. Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) is spiraling into the abyss.

The combined effect of ZC’s poor corporate governance and mismanagement has created a tumor in national cricket, which threatens to kill the sport in this country, and I fear that if urgent action is not taken to address the situation, national cricket may have entered terminal phase.

My issue is not about the national players who had no other choice, but to stand together in 2004, rightly or wrongly. Or basically the 15 white players who were forced out of ZC at that time due to ZC’s enforced racial quota system. Or the Black Players who were consequently forced into the international arena when some were clearly not ready, thus damaging their careers.

Or the overall number of Black, White, Asian and Coloured Players who have simply left the game due to being dissatisfied about being run by a dictatorship and working for a Union which has hidden agendas which operate to the detriment of this great game we all love.

Over the last 10 years I have watched the same forced quota system, which led me to end my playing career, continue to be applied. Some of the current players are simply and completely out of their depth. In 2004, ZC strategically misinformed all when it said the quotas were just “goals”.

Ironically, had they taken a softer approach and targeted junior levels at grass roots (like South Africa have done) this would have been far more effective. Sadly, in 2004, they decided instead to take a confrontational approach and attacked the national team directly, not recognising the damage this would do to the brand — ZC.

Relying on any sort of quota system is the sheer result of failure to develop the sport at grass roots, and flies in the face of merit and performance based selection.

In ZC’s case, quota systems were also used as a front to get certain non-cricketing individuals (with personal agendas not consistent with the business of cricket) into administration. The results have been financially disastrous for ZC.

Millions of dollars granted to ZC by the International Cricket Committee (ICC) are unaccounted for and ZC has steadfastly refused many calls in the past decade to account for the whereabouts of these funds or agree to surrender to proper audits. Instead, ZC alleges these calls are the work of some dark “third force” with sinister racial motives.

A convenient mistruth, designed to deflect attention from their rank poor corporate governance and act as a smokescreen for ZC’s underlying shenanigans. On other occasions, ZC has again resorted to the race card as they did in 2004.

Further, ZC purposely continues to refuse to listen to or respect the views of a Players’ Union, in the same way they rubbished the need for this in 2004. They will not allow an elected Player’s representative to sit on their board, maybe because they fear he will simply find out too much!

Yet such representation could aid ZC massively, if, of course, they genuinely had the sport at heart.

Inclusive corporate governance and an open culture would allow the players to be participative and would remove the excuse of player pay or contract disputes which have instead impacted adversely on the overall professionalism and performance of our national team.

International cricket is a business for sure, but the “product” at its very heart is simply based on player performance.

A performance culture needs to be instilled and maintained through proper selection, training and development of the player base in a transparent and sustainable manner, which recognises and rewards performance. This will allow the players to focus on what they do best — playing the game as competitively as possible and to the best of their ability across whatever format of the game (T20, ODI or Test) they are selected to represent their country.

This is not rocket science! However, having just watched our national team surrender 9-0 to Bangladesh, it seems to me ZC are in total denial, and are incompetent as an administration with no idea about what it means to run the sport on successful lines.

The past is past, but what about the present and most importantly the future of cricket in this country?

According to the ICC rankings, we are now the world’s worst ODI and Test nation, taking the top 10 nations into account. We have just lost 9 matches in succession to our closest rivals in the world ranking, suggesting huge gap between them and us. Associate members, like Afghanistan and Ireland, with much more progressive structures than ours, are clamouring to take our place at the top table in world cricket.

Two other facts have struck me over the past few weeks. One individual was given a Life Presidency by ZC and another individual was recently recalled to help ZC. Yet both are previously associated with the demise of ZC!

It seems ZC are trying to get a spin doctor to misinform the media, he will probably tell us that heads will roll, changes will take place and that all will soon be well again in ZC! He may even tell us ZC is still busy “rebuilding” — 10 years after we heard this same thing! Will he, I wonder, blame all the players and the coaching staff, and once again allow the board to take no responsibility for the clear current failures of ZC?

Will the board simply continue to protect their personal treasure-chest at all costs? Recent articles of Alistair Campbell becoming the new CEO are very positive. However, Alistair would be of no use to anyone unless he is given full carte-blanche on decision-making!

After 10 years of watching this proud national sport crumble, with the exception of the odd bit of individual brilliance by a handful of players, cricket supporters and the country itself must demand answers now?

I would personally like to know how the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Sports and Recreation Commission are going to react to this recent tour. Surely they cannot remain silent on this disgraceful chapter of results?

For me, the answer is simple, but the truth is not always popular to those in denial. Our cricketing authorities have failed systematically.

Cricket will never change in this country unless we urgently acquire cricket-minded individuals with business background, not business-minded people with no cricket knowledge.
Zimbabwe is the last cricketing country in the world that can afford to adopt average administration. I also strongly believe the quality and depth of our player base is less now than it was ten years ago — quality wise. We need to get the quality players back (those, regardless of race, who have left in the last few years) and rid of those who have simply been dressed up in coloured clothing to make up numbers, so ZC pretends there is major depth.

Because of the way ZC has run this sport into the ground, I feel for the current coaching staff, selection panel and players, but they also need to see things for what they are: you reap what you sow. If you get into bed with the devil don’t be surprised if the results are not good.

Although my cricketing career was cut short, I personally enjoyed every day of my cricketing career and had great memories.

Now, I am simply a loyal Zimbabwean cricket supporter and passionate backer of Zimbabwe sport in general and I simply want to know “where to now ZC” before it’s simply too late?

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About Tinashe Gwatidzo

Tinashe Gwatidzo is an IT Entrepreneur from Zimbabwe , passionate about technology and the development of technological solutions in Africa. He is the founder and CEO of TG-IT Solutions (Pty) Ltd and Zimbabwe Online Classifieds Site called Pamusika.net