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Cricket, Zimbabwe's Biggest Sport, on Point of Collapse


Zimbabwe's national cricket team say they will not play for their country again unless their two top administrators quit their jobs. Zimbabwe's political and humanitarian crisis regularly spills over into sport.

Tatenda Taibu, the young captain of Zimbabwe's cricket team which has just returned from India and yet another disastrous losing tour, had to move from his Harare home on Thursday night and check into a hotel.

He had just told journalists that he and his team mates would not play again for Zimbabwe unless the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, Peter Chingoka, was removed from his post, and managing director Ozias Bvute was suspended pending an audit into the game's finances.

Several hours later he reported to police that he had received threatening telephone calls from one of President Robert Mugabe's most militant sports personalities who recently became involved in cricket at the invitation of Mr. Chingoka.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Zimbabwe cricket has been in turmoil for several years. Two prominent national cricketers lead a death of democracy demonstration before the first World Cup Cricket match in Harare in 2003, angering the administrators and the ruling Zanu-PF. President Robert Mugabe is the patron of Zimbabwe cricket.

A year later the then captain of the team, Heath Streak, was sacked when he threatened to quit unless changes were made to the team's selection panel.

Since then, Zimbabwe lost every first class international match it played. Players say they lost concentration because of tensions with administrators.

Revenues from television rights for international matches, financial support from the International Cricket Council in London, and sponsorships, made cricket the richest sport in Zimbabwe.

Now the balance sheet of Zimbabwe Cricket shows it is broke.

The national players and their captain said they had to speak out about governance and the administration of the game before cricket collapsed.

The top administrators are presently answering questions at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe following the teams demands for the audit of the game's financial statements.

Political analysts say that the chaos in Zimbabwe sport is a reflection of what is going on in society as a whole which is grappling with the worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.

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