Zim Cricket’s error of judgment that stinks
THERE were always concerns that Zimbabwe Cricket authorities’ decision to grant authority to nine of the country’s best cricketers to play in Afghanistan was too risky a gamble to take given the volatility of the situation in that Asian country. And those fears came to pass on Wednesday when a suicide bomber blew herself up, just outside the stadium in Kabul where the matches are being played, and killed at least three other people.
A match was in progress by the time the bomb was detonated and it had to be stopped, as officials and players scrambled for safety, before security forces in that city eventually gave the green light for the game to be completed.
But, as many here had feared, the message was very clear from the extremists — they will not let a semblance of order, which a cricket tournament being staged in the heart of Kabul represents — because they want to remind the world the authorities haven’t defeated them.
A tournament that features a number of international sports stars drawn from different countries becomes an appealing target because striking it provides the global media attention which these people also want as part of their agenda to spread the message that they are still firmly in the trenches.
How the ZC leaders ended up granting those special permits for some of our best cricketers to fly straight into a warzone, which is exactly what Kabul has been reduced to these days, is beyond comprehension.
For them to suggest, as they do now, that they were given guarantees from their Afghanistan counterparts that the safety of the players would never be threatened, which helped them to allow the cricketers to go to Kabul, isn’t a very good defence.
In fact, it smacks of dereliction of responsibility by national sports leaders for whom the welfare of their stars should never be compromised, even if these boys were going to get a fortune in Afghanistan, because they played a part in risking the lives of some of the country’s best sportsmen.
It’s a shame, whichever way one looks at it, because even though ZC have been telling us the players are safe and are now on their way home, it doesn’t take away the organisation’s lack of moral responsibility to act correctly — when these offers came along — and refuse to grant the players the right to fly into this warzone.
The cricketers are all contracted to ZC, which means that the country’s cricket leaders have full control of where they play and whom they play for, during the times when the domestic season isn’t in full swing, and to let these boys go Kabul was a monumental error of judgment that stinks.
We are worried that, even by Thursday when we broke the story that ZC had ordered that all our cricketers return home from Kabul, we didn’t see any movement from either the Sports Commission or the parent Ministry of Sport scrambling to not only get answers, but playing a leading role in ensuring that our boys are back home safely.
There comes a time when the issue at hand is bigger than those who have been elected, or appointed, to be the leaders of their sporting disciplines and where the parent ministry has to take a leading role in ensuring that everything is fine.
This is one grave incident because here we are talking about a real threat to the lives of some of our leading sportsmen and what we saw on Thursday, as if everything was normal, was disappointing to say the least.
We hoped to be getting regular feedback from those who are in charge of sport, about the measures that have been taken, whether all the players had left Kabul and when they are now expected home.
Instead, there was grave silence on all fronts and what we only heard, to even increase the fury, was that one of our players, Tendai Chatara, featured in a match on Thursday at the same stadium where the suicide bomber blew herself up.
Others will say we should have raised similar concerns when our cricketers flew to Pakistan, despite concerns by other Test playing nations who have refused to tour there since the militant attacks on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009, but that was a different case.
Lahore isn’t the same as Kabul and it was very clear, because this was the national team on tour, the Pakistani security authorities were going to pull all stops to ensure that our boys were safe and that’s what happened.
After all, yesterday, six of the best South African players, including the Proteas captain Faf du Plessis, played in Lahore for the World XI against Pakistan after spending a week in that country without any incident.
Certainly, none of those players will risk travelling to Kabul, right now, to play and, crucially, none of their cricket authorities will sanction such a risky tour.
Our cricket authorities, the Sports Commission and the parent ministry, all have to tell us why this was allowed to happen.