Zim Cricket cash woes force switch of test match venue

Bulawayo will not get a chance to host the second international test cricket match against Pakistan, after officials announced this week that the match will instead take place in Harare.

The Zimbabwe Cricket board said in a statement on Wednesday that the test match, scheduled for the Bulawayo Queens Sports Club, will instead take place at the Harare sports Club. The match, the second and final in the test series against Pakistan, is due to begin next Tuesday.

The statement on Wednesday cited “logistical reasons” for the decision, saying that an inspection of the Bulawayo grounds found that “it is not in a position” to host the match.”

“The host franchise, Tuskers, remains committed to hosting international matches at Queens and as Zimbabwe Cricket it is our practice to distribute matches between Harare and Bulawayo,” said Zim Cricket managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa, adding: “The status of each tour will determine where to host the various matches.”

The venue switch comes as the home side has been demonstrating fine form during the first test, still underway in Harare.

The performance has temporarily overshadowed the serious problems faced by the cash strapped Zim Cricket board, which recently faced a potential boycott by its players over unpaid wages. This boycott was avoided after assurances from the board that the money was coming, and it is understand that the switch from Bulawayo to Harare is part of a cost-saving strategy.

Outgoing sports Minister David Coltart on Thursday lamented what he called “serious administrative and financial problems in Zimbabwe cricket.” Speaking during an interview with SW Radio Africa, Coltart first extended his compliments to the home team, calling their performance against Pakistan “magnificent.”

Coltart then went on to question the official reason given for the venue switch, saying it “beggars belief that the Queens Club is not in a position to host the match.”

“It is a magnificent ground and a number of international players have said it is one of the best wickets in the world,” Coltart explained, saying he visited the grounds very recently.

He added: “It can’t possibly have anything to do with the physical circumstances of the ground. It does appear, although this isn’t the reason given, that the real reason is financial.”

The outgoing minister said that the financial issues call for “introspection and understanding of whether we are applying our money, that is Zim Cricket money, to the rights things.”

“In the past we have had a bloated administration with some people in senior administrative positions who started out quite poor and ended their terms very wealthy people. And I question if this is the right application of money,” Coltart said.

Two years ago Coltart issued a directive, that was accepted by the Sports and Recreation Commission, that there be an equitable distribution of international games across the county. Coltart explained that the intention was to “spread the game so Zimbabweans could develop “patriotic, nationalistic spirit in support of our teams.”

“Zim Cricket has honoured that directive and equitably shared all matches between Bulawayo and Harare. But this year it has not been complied with. This is a very retrogressive step that leads to the impression that only people who live in Harare can have the benefit of watching international teams. And I hope Zim Cricket are not hoping to go against that directive,” Coltart said. – SW Radio Africa News

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