Zimbabwean cricketers plying their trade in Afghanistan could be headed for a clash with the local cricket governing body after defying its order for them to return home immediately after a suicide bomber killed three people near one of the gates of the Kabul International Stadium on Wednesday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) last week announced that it had with immediate effect revoked the No Objection Certificates (NOCs) it issued to nine local players to allow them to play in the ongoing Shpageeza Cricket League, saying it “will not under any circumstances compromise on matters of player safety.”
However, four days after the deadly blast and the subsequent stance by ZC, Zimbabwean players remain in Afghanistan, with some of the players representing their clubs during yesterday’s fourth round of matches in the competition.
The players that are part of the league are Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Tendai Chatara, Elton Chigumbura, Richard Ngarava, Raza Butt, Ryan Burl, Sikandar Raza and Richmond Mutumbami.
Veteran seamer Christopher Mpofu was expected to feature in the tournament but was forced to cancel his plans as the explosion took place on the same day he was expected to leave the country.
However, as of yesterday his collegues were still participating in the Shpageeza Cricket League, with Ngarava featuring for the Amo Sharks as they took on the Boost Defenders at the Kabul International Stadium.
Australia-based Solomon Mire and Hamilton Masakadza were curiously missing from the MIS Ainak Knights lineup who only fielded Sikandar Raza and Vusi Sibanda during their match against Ryan Burl and Richmond Mutumbami’s Kabul Eagles at the same venue.
ZC and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) have received sharp criticism from some sections of the local media for their decision to allow the players to participate in Afghanistan.
However, SRC, through its board chairman Edward Siwela, yesterday said they did not have the authority to bar the cricketers from competing in Afghanistan.
“They left the country as individual players; they are not a national team, they were not sent on an assignment by Zimbabwe Cricket and therefore, no clearance was sought for them to go out and consequently, the SRC did not process any clearance in that respect,” Siwela told reporters at a hastily-arranged press conference yesterday.
“When it comes to clearance, which is a provision in the Sports and Recreation Commission Act and the attendant statutory instrument, the SRC is empowered to clear national teams that are going out to represent the country.
Siwela added: “Where a sportsperson wants to go elsewhere to seek employment, SRC is not mandated with clearing them in that regard. However, that said, I would like to urge all athletes and sportspeople out there to exercise restraint when they are looking at which countries to go to looking for employment. Security of the athletes is of paramount concern to us as the SRC.”
Efforts to get a comment from ZC’s media and communications manager Darlington Majonga were fruitless as his mobile number went unanswered.
The Shpageeza Cricket League comprises six teams and features about two dozen overseas players from South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman.
All six teams in the tournament are scheduled to play each other in a total of 15 league matches, with the top four sides battling it out in two qualifiers and an eliminator on the road to the final, which is planned for September 22.