Zimbabwe players likely to call-off protest and play in tri-series next month
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Zimbabwe's players are likely to call off their threatened protest against their own cricket board, and are looking to play in next month's T20 triangular series which involves Australia and Pakistan, despite not being paid outstanding salaries and match fees. The series is expected to be hosted in Zimbabwe itself, in the first week of July.
An insider has told the media that talks between Zimbabwe Cricket's (ZC) newly-appointed consultant Vince van der Bijl and players' representative Gerald Mlotchwa had led to an "understanding". It was understood that ZC would only be able to settle their bills once they receive their next ICC grant in July and it was important that the matches went ahead in the meantime.
As the boycott plans have almost been taken down, Zimbabwe's preparations for the series have begun with a visit from Kenya, who are playing 20-over matches against Zimbabwean sides, which were compiled with a view to giving interim coach Lalchand Rajput a first look at the players at his disposal. Rajput is yet to properly benefit from that because some players opted out of the first three days of the matches.
ZC had named two 15-man squads called Select XI and Board XI (later changed to Chairman's XI) and while both teams have played against the touring Kenyans, they have not featured several big names. For the Chairman's XI, Hamilton Maskadza and Peter Moor did not play while for the Select XI, Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams were the notable absentees.
The likes of Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura played for the Chairman's XI, while Christopher Mpofu is the noted name among those who have turned out for Select XI, leading to speculation that there was a player split looming. Those doubts have now been quelled because "issues are being resolved slowly," the source said.
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The ZC Board had earlier found themselves in a difficult situation with the players having given them an ultimatum to pay their long-overdue salaries and match fees by June 25, failing which they would boycott the upcoming T20 tri-series. The cricketers are owed three months' salary and match fees from their tour of Sri Lanka last July and had already opted not to train ahead of the tri-series as the first sign of protest.
"The players have realised that they are probably not going to get any pay before July and are frustrated that ZC have not communicated with them. They still feel the non-pay is ridiculous and they want to see a payment plan in writing from ZC," a source told the media back then.
The source also confirmed the players had also "come to the realisation that if these matches don't happen, Zimbabwe Cricket could be finished, especially if you look at the fixtures they have coming up."
Despite being a Full Member, Zimbabwe will not play any Tests in the foreseeable future. In the next three months, they are scheduled to play some white-ball cricket only and are due to host Pakistan for five ODIs after the T20 triangular series and then travel to South Africa for three ODIs and three T20Is.
By Friday, when the practice matches with Kenya resume, all the players who were named in the two squads are expected to be available.