Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
THE International Cricket Council board meets in Auckland, New Zealand from today till Friday where four key decisions with a direct impact on Zimbabwe will be made during the gathering.
ICC will announce at the conclusion of the board meetings which country will host next year’s 2019 Cricket World Cup Qualifier. Zimbabwe are vying to host the 10-team competition with the other countries with an interest being a joint bid by Ireland and Scotland as well as a single submission by the United Arab Emirates.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) will be represented at the gathering by chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani and managing director Faisal Hasnain.
Mukuhlani said they were expecting Zimbabwe to be awarded the right to host next year’s Qualifier because the Government has provided the guarantees which were required by the ICC in order for the country to be considered as the hosts for the tournament.
“We have provided all that was required, the guarantees that the Government was supposed to give, they have given them all, we have sent them to ICC on time. So from the Qualifier’s point of view, we are really optimistic, we see no reason, the inspection has been done, the ICC second inspection, they were here last week,’’ he said.
With the 2019 Cricket World Cup to be competed for by just 10 teams, the top eight countries in the ICC ODI Championship at the end of September have automatically booked their place in England. Those in position nine to 12 in ODI Championship, four teams from the 2015 to 2017 ICC World Cricket League Championship as well as two sides from the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Two will try to make it via the Qualifier.
West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland have booked their place at the Qualifier.
Mukuhlani said if the country wins the rights for the Qualifier, 10 teams will be in action in Harare as well as Bulawayo with 48 matches lined up. This should bring with it financial benefits to ZC as well as the country as hotels will get some occupancy during that time. Another advantage is that it gives Zimbabwe the best chance of making it to England come 2019.
“It gives Zimbabwe the highest possible chance of qualifying because they will be playing at home, I don’t think there is anything better than that, what the board would have done to help the team qualify for the World Cup other than bringing the games to be played in Zimbabwe,’’ Mukuhlani said.
No dates have been finalised for the Qualifier if it is to be held in Zimbabwe. Mukuhlani gave indications that should the country get the nod, the event will be held before or after the Indian Premier League because all participating countries would want to bring their best players for the Qualifier.
ICC chairman Shashank Manohar visited the country in August and in his discussions with the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Makhosini Hlongwane, they spoke on ZC’s financial situation. The ICC board will approve extra funding for ZC which will enable Zimbabwe to carry forward with less financial constraints. Mukuhlani said they were expecting positive outcomes from the ICC meetings with regards the issue of ZC funding.
“The ICC chairman and the minister had very fruitful meetings, they have agreed on a roadmap in trying to solve our financial problems,’’ Mukuhlani said.
On whether the ZC debt has gone up or down, Mukuhlani pointed out that his board had managed to reduce their financial liabilities but they wanted a situation where they could liquidate what they owe so that they can operate debt free.
An ICC board meeting is due to be held in Victoria Falls in April in what would be the first time that this has happened.
Another issue that should come up for discussion which ZC are keen on its outcome is the proposed four-day Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth in December. ZC and Cricket South Africa have agreed to have the day/night Test to be played over four days but ICC have to give that approval when the decision makers meet in New Zealand.— @Mdawini_29