On the face of it, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) decision to suspend Zimbabwe means the cricket world has shrunk even further. A sport that has only 12 countries playing at the top level can ill afford to lose a Full Member, albeit temporarily.
Then again, as ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said at the conclusion of the Full Council in London on Thursday that the game’s governing body doesn’t take the decision to suspend a Member “lightly”, but sport must be kept free from “political interference”.
As a consequence of suspension, the ICC’s funding to Zimbabwe would be frozen and there’s a reason to it. The ICC distributes revenue to Member Boards in US dollars and the governing body feared that the Zimbabwe government would capture it. The Zimbabwe government’s Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended the elected body in Zimbabwe Cricket in June, which constituted government interference.
Back in the 1990s, Zimbabwe were good enough to challenge all top cricket nations on the field. They had beaten India and South Africa at the 1999 World Cup. Things started to go downhill after that. Political and economic upheavals in the country under Robert Mugabe’s despotic regime affected cricket big-time. A player revolt happened in 2004. Top players started leaving the country en masse.
As a trickle-down effect, the Zimbabwe cricket board got muddled in internal chaos. Corruption crept in. Cricket in Zimbabwe has hit rock bottom and the ICC’s hand was forced. Mind, only last year Zimbabwe Cricket received financial assistance from the ICC after their cricket board’s 2017 financial report showed they were $19 million in debt.
This is the first time that the ICC has suspended a Full Member. Some Associate Members are currently under suspension. Manohar said: “The ICC wants cricket to continue in Zimbabwe in accordance with the ICC Constitution”. Without money though, cricket in Zimbabwe can’t go on and it’s very unlikely that they will feature in the World T20 qualifier in October.
A tweet from former Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor summed it up… “@ICC It’s heartbreaking to hear your verdict and suspend cricket in Zimbabwe. The @ZimbabweSrc has no government back round yet our Chairman is an MP? Hundreds of honest people, players, support staff, ground staff totally devoted to ZC out of a job, just like that.”