Zim Cricket’s er­ror of judg­ment that stinks

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Comment & Opinion -

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.

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