Australia, Pakistan to play tri-series in Zimbabwe


HARARE: Zimbabwe Cricket, still reeling from their inability to qualify for the World Cup and the sacking of the organisation’s entire coaching staff, will host Australia and Pakistan in July for a T20I triangular tournament and then Pakistan for five ODIs. Neither country will play a Test in Zimbabwe, although the FTP had Australia pencilled in for one Test and Pakistan for two, further underlining ZC’s desire to restructure and avoid costly home Tests.

“Playing two of the game’s biggest teams will provide us with a very welcome litmus test as we forge ahead with our plans to develop a stronger Zimbabwe side capable of consistently competing and winning against the best,” Faisal Hasnain, ZC MD said.

But ZC’s plans appear, at best, hazy. After hosting West Indies for two Tests in October last year, ZC strongly indicated it would consider playing less longer-format cricket at home, given the costs and the fact that Zimbabwe is not part of the new Test Championship. Instead, it focused its energy on 50-over cricket, in the hopes of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. Failure to do that has left Zimbabwe Cricket in limbo, which came to a head when all coaching staff – from national coach Heath Streak to under-19 coach Stephen Mangongo – were fired. Graeme Cremer lost the captaincy and Tatenda Taibu was relieved of his duties as convener of selectors as well.

ZC held a press conference on Tuesday to outline its plans for the resumption of domestic cricket – the 2018-19 season was not concluded as World Cup qualifier preparations began earlier this year – as well as plans for an academy. But the issue of the coaching staff was not on the agenda. They would need to attend to the allocation of backroom staff with haste if Zimbabwe are to play international cricket again three months’ time.

The prospect of the tours of Australia and Pakistan being curtailed has been looming large for months given the financial state of Zimbabwean cricket, and matters came to a head with the country’s failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup set to hit them hard in the pocket. In February, there was doubt over the fate of Pakistan’s tour to the country, with ZC’s managing director Faisal Hasnain saying as much.

“Finances may not allow the [Pakistan] series to go ahead because we don’t get a lot from our TV contract, and the series ends up – the production costs result in huge losses,” Faisal Hasnain, ZC’s managing director had told ESPNcricinfo.“Given our current cash situation, in order to balance our books, we may actually have to either renegotiate the format or we may have to postpone it until such time as we are ready to play.”