Qualifiers a resounding success: ICC

HARARE - The rumbling sound of buses being escorted by police motorbikes and cars sounding sirens have left many motorists and pedestrians wondering whether ex-president Robert Mugabe has returned or it is the leader of the new dispensation Emmerson Mnangagwa going about his business.

But far from it, it is the 10 ICC member nations currently participating in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers being held in Zimbabwe where only two teams will make it to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 to be played in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.

Chris Tetley, ICC head of events, has described the ongoing qualifiers as a resounding success and is confident that the staging of the games here will leave a lasting legacy for Zimbabwe and everyone who has been involved in them one way or the other.

Tetley spoke highly of Zimbabwe’s hospitality and the Zimbabwe Cricket’s ability to work together with the global cricket governing body in staging this unique event beyond what many had envisaged the southern African nation was capable of doing.

The Daily News’ Austin Karonga had a chat with Tetley, on the sidelines of a Super Six clash between Zimbabwe and Windies which ended in an agonising four-wicket loss for the hosts at Harare Sports Club on Monday.

Below are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: A warm welcome to Zimbabwe Chris, I hope you are enjoying the country’s hospitality. How has the tournament gone so far?
A: Thank you very much Austin, Zimbabwe is indeed a very hospitable country and we are loving our stay here, I had hoped I could add a few more days but sadly I fly back just before the final.
The tournament has been a great success. I think just looking at the atmosphere, the crowd in the ground today, the spectators have turned out in full to watch Zimbabwe in particular, and I think it shows the rest of the world watching on TV that there’s a lot of passion for cricket in Zimbabwe which is one of the things that obviously we are hoping to be able to highlight through the staging of the event here.

Q: Do you think Zimbabwe has delivered?
A: Yes, although the event is not over yet, I think Zimbabwe has proved to be a very good host. One of the most important things that we need to deliver at any ICC event is high-quality playing surfaces.
Even more so for an event like this, where teams are fighting to qualify for our biggest event, you want to make sure that the players have the best opportunity to perform at the highest level and then for the best performing teams to make it through. I think the surfaces that we have seen in all the venues have been very good.
It’s not easy to prepare a number of pitches in a short space of time at a venue because a lot of preparation goes into that and so I think the grounds staff; the curators have done a very, very good job in preparing the wickets for the tournament.

Q: How much assistance does ICC give in this respect to ensure that the wickets meet the required standards?
A: The responsibility for actually preparing the pitches rests with Zimbabwe Cricket and we are fortunate to be working with teams of high quality curators. ICC has a pitch consultant who provides help and guidance where necessary but he has not had too much here because the quality of the grounds and the expertise of the local curators.

Q: What aspects of Zimbabwe have struck you the most during your stay here?
A: What’s been really heartening for me is the passion for cricket that we have seen from the fans; and not just watching the Zimbabwe game but watching the other teams.
We have had good levels of support for matches that don’t feature Zimbabwe and it shows that the passion and interest for cricket is there which maybe people didn’t realise was the case.
For us to bring a tournament to Zimbabwe for the first time since 2003 with nine international high performing cricket teams competing to play in our biggest event and for them to receive the levels of support, warmth and hospitality that has been the case from the Zimbabwean public has been fantastic.
I think you will find that everyone who came to Zimbabwe to be a part of this tournament is going to take away some very special memories. People will look back on this event and say it was a very very successful event and that’s going to do a lot for Zimbabwe’s standing in world cricket.

Q: How much is involved in hosting such a big event like the qualifiers?
A: It is a considerable undertaking to organise an event such as this. Fortunately, we have an excellent and experienced team that has been working with our colleagues at Zimbabwe Cricket for a number of months to make all the arrangements for the event. I think the success of the event so far is reflective of the hard work that has been put in on both sides.
Ultimately, there is a shared responsibility between ICC and Zimbabwe Cricket to deliver all aspects of the event. It isn’t easy to do with stakeholders involved in the event being located all around the world, and therefore much of what we do may be a little different to the way things are done normally by Zimbabwe Cricket, but that is the case with every ICC event we run. The key is to develop a good team that works together.

Q: What sort of legacy will these qualifiers leave?
A: I think there’s a lot that Zimbabwe can take from this; if you take today’s match for example we have got 400-500 school kids that have come and are enjoying the game. We have given them the opportunity to come and watch world-class cricket — to watch some of their heroes maybe. At the innings break they will get a chance to play a game of mini-cricket on the outfield and so what a great inspiration this may be for them to really catch the cricket bug and take up the game.
Hopefully, this is the event that will inspire the next generation of Zimbabwean cricketers. I think what we have been able to present to the rest of the world about the enthusiasm for the game of cricket in Zimbabwe has been excellent and will maybe change some people’s perception.
There’s a real passion and interest for cricket in Zimbabwe which maybe people weren’t aware of but when they watch on TV and hear and see the atmosphere that’s being created here its world-class, as good as any other cricket venue.
There is a lot of positives for ICC and ZC to be working together on delivering the event. My colleagues at ICC understand ZC better, ZC understands ICC better, there’s an experience that comes for ZC staff in working on an event like this which is an opportunity that hasn’t arisen since the cricket world cup in 2003 so that experience from an administration perspective will hopefully have benefits in the future.

Q: What are the rest of the teams participating saying about Zimbabwe’s hospitality?
A: Everything I heard has been exceptionally positive. People have thoroughly enjoyed it as I said. The cricketers have been able to play quality cricket, the surfaces have been good, the warmth and hospitality of the Zimbabwean people, the atmosphere, the grounds they have experienced all of the sorts of things that you hope to be part of an event have been here so everybody has loved it.

Q: And the police escorts. Is this standard practice that ICC does in all their events?
A: There’s obviously certain things that we try and put in place really from an efficiency perspective so that the teams can move from A to B as they need to with minimum fuss. It’s obviously very important to teams, and match officials that they can follow their pre-match routines and prepare as they wish to, so the provisions that are put in place are really designed to make sure they can do that.

Q: Has the presence of ZC managing director Faisal Hasnain, who is also a former ICC chief finance officer helped much in ensuring that Zimbabwe gets the hosting confidence from other countries?
A: He’s certainly a familiar face that we know very well from his time at ICC and I hope he brings a lot to Zimbabwe Cricket.

Q: Any parting shot?
A: This is the first ICC event in Zimbabwe for a long time and I have been struck by the passion, the potential and enthusiasm for cricket here which maybe I didn’t fully appreciate beforehand, and I have heard the same thing from a number of people who have really been taken by what they have seen and experienced here.
The main things for me that I think have been exceptional have been the support from the public, the quality of the facilities, the enthusiasm shown by the fans and I hope that continues through the next few games whatever the results are.
People ought to feel a part of this big event and feel proud of what Zimbabwe has been able to achieve. We are in the final stages of the event and qualification for cricket world cup is on the line so I am anticipating some really high quality, exciting cricket that I very much hope people come and watch.
It is free to get in so I hope as many people as possible take the opportunity to come along.


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