1st Anniversary celebrations

It hasn’t always been easy but I have made it – one whole year. Nobody has noticed, except me, but I have managed to go a whole 365 days without writing a solitary word about Zimbabwe Cricket. For that matter, I haven’t even entered into a verbal conversation on the subject.

And I’m not about to change that now although the mere mention of ZC means that my silent protest is over. But the reason I have made this decision is because of South Africa’s involvement in Zimbabwe Cricket, and to ask a question.

I have heard on very good authority that South Africa played an overwhelmingly dominant role in maintaining Zimbabwe’s status as a full member of the ICC at the recent AGM. In the past, other nations have offered limited doses of support in the face of screaming protests from England and Australia demanding that Zimbabwe be cast into international isolation.

India and its cronies have offered support from time to time because owning the Zimbabwe vote at the ICC’s head table was useful when it came to the haggling, bartering and back-stabbing that makes the cricket world go round. The West Indies, too, have supported Zimbabwe and South Africa, as African brothers and neighbours, have always been sympathetic.

But my pet fly, which was sitting on the wall of the boardroom when the presidents and chief executives met under Ray Mali’s presidency last month, tells me that things have changed quite a bit these days. The Asian nations have, finally, pretty much given up on the Zimbos and, with a sorry shake of their collective heads, decided that things can’t carry on as they are.

Even the West Indies, traditionally great supporters of Zimbabwe, signalled their new found reality by cancelling a scheduled ‘A’ tour to the country just a couple of weeks ago. Officially the reason was ‘safety and security’ but the statements made by Caribbean politicians made it abundantly clear that there was a lot more to their decision than that.

The final straw for the Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and West Indians, it seems, was ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed’s report on the finances of Zimbabwe Cricket. The ICC pay millions of dollars to its members, ostensibly to develop the game and improve infrastructure, and therefore has a right to know where and how it is being spent.

Speed found incontrovertible evidence of fraud and corruption and was exasperated and disgusted enough to ‘leak’ his report to the BBC’s sports editor and renown investigative journalist Mihir Bose. Zimbabwe, it seemed certain, would lose its Test status and return to the ranks of Namibia, Scotland and Holland etc.

But that was when South Africa stepped into the fray in the form of our snarling, pit-bull of a president, Norman Arendse who has a special affection and affinity with Zimbabwe Cricket. He was their advocate during the arbitration process some years ago with the Heath Streak-led ‘rebels.’
Arendse worked his magic once again and Zimbabwe kept its status. And its ICC millions. So grateful was ZC president Peter Chingoka that he wrote a heartfelt letter of thanks to Arendse for his support.

So the question is this. In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, why did Cricket South Africa feel that it was in the ICC’s best interests to keep its very sick member in the ‘family’? Or, perhaps, was it in CSA’s best interests? I don’t know.

My pet fly has been very busy recently. It is common knowledge that the ICC’s decision to review Allen Stanford’s proposed international Twenty/20 tournament in Antigua in February next year was based on concerns about the overcrowded fixture list and playing schedule.

My fly, however, has heard that the presidents of the Test playing nations (basically, the ICC) have let Stanford know that if he is prepared to spread his cash amongst all of them, and not just the four nations he has invited to play (Australia, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa), then he can have his tournament. Stanford has offered a winner-takes-all prize of US$20 million.

If my fly heard correctly, then it sounds like everyone wants a slice of Stanford’s very, very big cash pie. And if they get it, the Texan billionaire can do what he likes.

The thing is, Stanford’s pie is worth about US$35 billion. That is a lot more than the ICC can even imagine. Stanford gets what he wants and he feels like people are trying to stick their greedy noses into his fortune, or hold him to ransom, he will crush them.

Cricket administration seems to be all about money at the moment. Hopefully that will change. I’m sure the good men running the game around the world will see what’s good for the game, hopefully soon.

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