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Zim to reject proposed Test cricket model

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PROPOSED major reforms in world cricket, to create a second-tier Test league for the three lowest-ranked teams, including Zimbabwe, will be resisted by the African country, The NewsHawks has established.

ENOCK MUCHINJO
Once a reasonably competitive outfit in the revered five-day format of the game, Zimbabwe reckons that apart from further alienating the country from the illustrious list of the world’s leading Test-playing nations, the mooted plan also lacks financial value for the perennially financially-troubled board.

Zimbabwe, alongside the newest Test-nations Ireland and Afghanistan, are the only Full Members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) that do not participate in the format’s flagship competition, the World Test Championship (WTC).

Reports this week revealed that an ICC meeting had informally discussed the possibility of a Test Second Division League to be launched in the “next cricket calendar”, between 2023-31.

Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan will likely be joined in the Second Division by the leading Associate nations – Scotland and Netherlands with the possibility of others – in a deliberate effort to avail more game time for these sides in the longer version of the game. Encompassed in the proposal is that the countries will also meet often in four-day matches outside Tests. 

However, an impeccable source within Zimbabwean cricket has told this publication that the board will not support the proposal once it is officially tabled. 

“It doesn’t benefit us at all,” said the source. “For us to be playing Tests against these sides is a waste of time. it’s a disaster, to be quite honest, it’s a waste.”

The leading official believes that instead of further positioning Zimbabwe with Test newcomers and Associates, the global governing body of the sport should instead help the country’s resuscitation efforts by organising matches between the best nations on the planet against the African side at different levels of the game. 

“Teams in the WTC, from number one to last, must be allocated time to play the other three (Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan),” suggested the official.

“Let’s say England, Australia and India: they must have a programme to make their A-sides play games against Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan. The rest of the Full Members must then have time where they play Tests against the other three (Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan), on a few occasions at least, to improve the quality of our cricket.”

The administrator cited Zimbabwe’s two-match Test series with Pakistan, which began on Thursday – as well as Bangladesh’s upcoming full tour here in June-July – as an example of that desire by some WTC-playing Full Members to engage the African side.

Explaining the exclusion of the “Big Three” of England, Australia and India from the country’s wish-list of Test opponents, the official admitted that Zimbabwe lacked the “commercial value” to attract these sides’ attention.

“We understand the commercial issue for them, so they wouldn’t want to play Zimbabwe because there is no commercial value in it. So, we would rather they give us their A-sides, which are good enough to play against any of the stronger nations. It’s also cheaper for us because no broadcasting is required so there are no costs.”

While hosting a team like India will be a big coup for the Zimbabwean board in terms of boosting its coffers, matches against the lower sides are not profitable, said the official.

“Whether you play India or Scotland, you are going to do production anyway, whether TV or livestream. What’s the point of running into production costs over five days against Scotland, when the matches have no value? Who is going to buy content for Scotland and Netherlands? We would rather play the second teams of the big nations and improve our standards in the process. So, for me, this Test Second Division is not the solution.”

Whilst Zimbabwe have struggled to regularly tie down quality opposition in Test cricket since their return to the format in 2011, the situation has been worse for Ireland and Afghanistan, who have sporadically tasted action in the premier format of the game since being awarded Test status in 2017.

In addition, the two newcomers are yet to realise the full financial benefits of being Test-playing nations.

“Truth of the matter is they (ICC) rushed Ireland and Afghanistan to full-membership without proper financial consideration,” remarked the Zimbabwean official.

“If you give someone Test status, they need to see the benefits. When Ireland and Afghanistan were made Full Members, the (ICC) financial cycle was already running; it didn’t include two extra members.

They should have been given Test-playing rights without Full Member status, until a new financial model. What is a Full Member with no money? It was a rushed political decision.”

Backers of the proposed model had earmarked the ongoing 2021-23 playing calendar as a test-run.

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