Something to cheer about at last

HARARE - It is no secret that the last two and a half years have been years of turmoil for everybody who has a remote interest in the game of cricket in Zimbabwe.

Players, administrators, staff and fans have all suffered hardships due to a chain of events that have left Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), down and almost out.

The organisation has got itself into terrible debts, which in turn have not allowed them to pay their players, and most of the staff.

Furthermore, they then announced that a retrenchment program would be enforced in due course, further weakening already strained relationships with players and staff alike.

A steady trickle of players leaving either their franchises, or the country due to their lack of faith in their employer, has left a massive dent and deterioration at all levels.

However, just as it seemed certain that the ship would run ashore, the news broke that Zimbabwe would be hosting South Africa in a one off Test match, followed by three One-Day Internationals, and then engage their southern neighbours as well as Australia in a triangular series.

The incoming tours are scheduled for mid-August to early September of this year.

So what are the ramifications of two cricketing icons touring Zimbabwe at the same time?

This is the type of event everybody would have wanted back in the days when players such as Shane Warne, Alan Donald, Andy Flower and many more were still playing.

But as the old saying goes, better late than never, and both Harare and Bulawayo crowds will be in for a feast of top draw cricket.

All three teams are already starting their preparations in earnest for the upcoming ICC World Cup which will be played in Australia and New Zealand early next year, and will take full advantage of this upcoming tournament.

A few interesting facts to mull over while we eagerly await the arrival of these two teams are the following:

The Zimbabwe players have been part of a dispute due to non-payment by their employers, which in turn forced them to go on strike, which then caused them to perform dismally at the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20.

The threat of these players repeating their actions still hangs over all of us like the impenetrable fog of London, but will this recent development perhaps force those who had plans of moving on to reconsider?

Not only do they stand a chance of earning some decent money due to television rights, but surely the thrill of facing up to the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, or bowling to world icons such as Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers should thwart any attempts to call it a day?

And if that isn't enough, they then have the golden opportunity of playing against the mighty Australians in what would probably be the biggest series other than the World Cup in their entire career?

Therefore, players will hopefully see the sense to hang around, and give it their very best when they take to the field.

Another question that will undoubtedly be asked is whether the Aussies and Proteas will bring their full teams, or at least as close to full strength teams as possible?

Both countries would have had a number of their key performers playing in the seventh addition of the IPL, as well as some of their players doing duty on the county circuit in England.

We remember all too well when Cricket South Africa  (CSA) approached ZC to tour Zimbabwe two years ago to play a few unofficial T20 warm-up matches before the 2012 addition of the ICC  World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

The so called friendlies then turned into a triangular series which also included Bangladesh, and despite CSA saying that they wanted to use these matches to prepare for the World Cup, they left out key players, and were soundly thrashed by Zimbabwe.

South Africa in their typical abrupt and almost arrogant manner shrugged off their misfortunes saying that "It was no big deal really.""

So will they make the same mistake again and send a weakened team? You wouldn't think so, when you consider that they will also be playing Australia, who will more than likely adopt their usual tough and no nonsense attitude by sending out a full strength team.

So for now, the trouble stricken ZC have avoided running their ship ashore, and have steered their floundering ship into calmer waters, thanks to the Two incoming tours which will also supply much needed income.

And maybe, just maybe, those who were considering a new future, as well as those who have already left the country may very well feel that there is still life in Zimbabwe cricket after all.

Although the wait still feels like an eternity, we can finally talk about something more positive and constructive as we brace ourselves for a barrage of fast bowlers and a host of match changing batsmen.


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