Zimbabwe players ready to ‘play for free’ to keep cricket alive in their country


Zimbabwe’s cricketers will play for free if need be in order to keep cricket in the country alive.

“We will play for free as long as we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” a senior squad member told ESPNcricinfo. “Our next assignment is the (T20 World Cup) qualifiers. We will play for free.”

The qualifiers remain the focus for Zimbabwe’s cricketers – men and women – although they have been barred from taking part in those events under the terms of their suspension by the ICC. Four members of the national women’s team were also dropped from the ICC’s Global Development Squad, but their exclusion does not extend to all cricket.

Zimbabwe are still technically able to play in bilateral series while under suspension. It is understood that the ICC will still appoint match officials for bilateral series that Zimbabwe host. But, at the moment, that likely means players playing for free, and Zimbabwe Cricket is in any case unable to host incoming tours without ICC funding. The Sports and Recreation Commission, which has put an interim committee in place to run cricket in the country, has said there is a contingency plan to deal with player welfare while Zimbabwe are under suspension, but the details of this plan have not apparently been communicated to the players.

Neither of the two senior national squads has been paid in the last two months, and the men were not paid match fees during their recent tour of the Netherlands and Ireland.

It appears increasingly unlikely that Zimbabwe will be able to take part in the women’s T20 qualifiers in August, or the men’s chapter in October. Zimbabwe were scheduled to host Afghanistan in August, before travelling to Bangladesh for a tri-series in September. The Future Tours Programme mentions that Zimbabwe will then host West Indies for a Test and five ODIs in October and November, before travelling to India for three T20Is in January next year. Zimbabwe have two Tests against Sri Lanka scheduled straight afterwards, before a trip to Bangladesh in March and a maiden Test against Ireland in Zimbabwe in April.

While these fixtures have not been cancelled outright, in reality there is no chance whatsoever of Zimbabwe hosting any cricket while under suspension, whether the players are paid or not. ZC is entirely reliant on ICC funding to host incoming cricket tours, which – apart from Indian visits – could end up as loss-making enterprises. (ESPNCricinfo)