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Zimbabwe Cricketers Suspend Strike

The Zimbabwean national cricket team has ended a strike begun last November. But as Tendai Maphosa reports from Harare, this might not be the end of the standoff between the players and the administrators.

The announcement to end the strike followed the government appointment of an interim board to run cricket for the next six months.

The players' decision follows the Sports and Recreation Commission directive that the new board should resolve contractual issues that include outstanding payments, one of the reasons the players were refusing to play, by January 31.

The players representative Clive Field told VOA the players would reconsider their position if the outstanding issues are not dealt with by then.

One of the players' demands was that Zimbabwe Cricket Chairman Peter Chingoka and managing director Ozias Bvute step down. But Mr. Chingoka was appointed chairman of the interim board.

The government's Sports and Recreation Commission chairman Brigadier General Gibson Mashingaidze described the players demand to have the two fired as "indiscipline" of the highest magnitude. Mr. Mashingaidze said the government would not be held to ransom by the players and was prepared see Zimbabwe lose its Test status.

Zimbabwe has, for the past 13 years, been a member of a small elite band of cricketing nations that qualify for Test status. He said the players were free to go and play elsewhere if they stuck to their position.

Zimbabwe team captain Tatenda Taibu, considered one of the best wicket keepers in the world, has resigned over the dispute and is now playing for a club in Bangladesh.

Zimbabwe cricket has been in crisis since the revolt of some senior white players a couple of years ago. They protested that a quota system that saw the introduction of more black players into the national team was compromising the standard of the sport.

Zimbabwe Cricket dismissed the players complaint as racism, because cricket was a white sport during the colonial era and the white players wanted to keep it as such. Some of the white players rejoined the national team after months without playing.

In a press statement, the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers Association said they are committed to playing for Zimbabwe and the preservation of Zimbabwe's Test status.

In a related incident, the Zimbabwean national soccer team, The Warriors, last week staged a sit in before their flight to Egypt were they started their last preparations for the upcoming African Cup of Nations tournament. They boarded the plane after they were paid money they were owed and an understanding that each player would be paid $3,000 before each match by the Zimbabwe Football Association.

The tournament kicks off on January 20 in Cairo.