India bring riches, keep ZCU afloat


Bulawayo, Aug. 1 -- While the Indian cricketers took a short, 45-minute flight from Harare to Bulawayo, the Zimbabwe team travelled by road to the venue for the final two One-dayers in the five-match series.

It takes a six-hour drive from the Zimbabwe capital to reach the sleepy town of Bulawayo, and most Zimbabwe cricketers either took a bus or their cars. But unlike the India players, well looked after by their financially robust board, the Zimbabwe players have to fight for every penny from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).

The fairly lop-sided series may seem meaningless to many back home, but for a small cricketing nation like Zimbabwe, the tour is a huge financial relief.

Heavy debts

It's learnt that ZCU has debts close to $15 million and is facing a huge financial strife.

In August last year, the board was evicted from its offices at the Harare Sports Club for non-payment of rent. In January, its various properties were attached by the deputy sheriff after it lost a civil case to a former marketing manager.

Before the Bangladesh team toured in April and May, the Zimbabwe players had to resort to a two-day strike after being offered measly contracts.

Currently ten players, including Ray Price who retired last week, are on central contracts with the remaining offered a winter contract that ends next month.

They were initially offered just $100 per week plus $2 bus fare per day. But after the players protested, ZCU hiked it to between $800-15 00. Even then there is no guarantee the players will get their money on time; at least till now they have not.

Staying lean

The lack of financial resources meant they to trim their coaching staff when they toured the West Indies earlier this year. Heath Streak, Grant Flower and fitness trainer Lorraine Chivandire were left out despite players openly opposing the step.

This is where the Indian team's short visit holds such importance to them. Unlike when they host Bangladesh, where ZCU's debt grows due to meagre earnings from TV rights, India bring in the moolah.Given their box-office appeal, the ZCU is set to earn $8 million in TV rights for hosting the world champions.

While it may not be enough to cover their debt, it will still go a long way in keeping Zimbabwe cricket afloat.Price, who has seen the upheaval in the last decade, is optimistic of the future.

"Obviously, the Indian tour helps us a slot financially. We will get a huge chunk of money thanks to TV rights. It's never easy when it (non-payment) happens because it becomes hard to concentrate on the game. But hopefully that's a thing of the past. And with Pakistan and Sri Lanka coming later, there are a lot of positive signs for us," he added.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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