We were saviours, not destroyers: Carlisle

Published: Saturday, July 3, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Harare:The Zimbabwe cricketers who went on strike in protest at the sacking of captain Heath Streak were trying to save and not destroy cricket in Zimbabwe, top order batsman Stuart Carlisle claimed.

Fast bowler Streak, now at County side Warwickshire, was sacked after he objected to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) selection policies which he claimed were racially and politically-motivated and compromised the success of the national team.

And at a fund-raising dinner to launch their upcoming 'Red Lions' Tour of England on Friday Carlisle said: "Our group went through this extremely stressful period not to destroy cricket in Zimbabwe but to try and save it.

"It did not all start three months ago (with the strike), but in 2001 when the ZCU launched its Task Force."

This was designed to fast-track more non-white players and administrators into a sport dominated for more than a century by whites.

Carlisle told around 100 guests: "The result was we lost 35 players, both black and white during the last three years. At that time the players formed their own association and we were internationally recognised, but not by the ZCU. Had they done so, we would not be in disarray today.

"Because of this players had to try and fix off-field problems individually. And so they were targetted. And when some players actually refused the captaincy or vice-captaincy, it shows how serious the situation became."

He said Streak's complaint about the national selection policy of bringing black players into the side before they were ready, "was the final catalyst towards what was a final attempt to save the sport."

Carlisle said the row led to a number of farcical situations.

"For the second ODI against Bangladesh (in March) the selection committee met for eight hours because of a threat by Mashonaland (Zimbabwe's largest province) board members to dig up the pitch if five non-whites were not included.

"And one selector offered a white player a double fee if he dropped out in favour of a non-white player."

He added: "Past form, performance, statistics, experience and merit are words that have not been in the selectors' vocabulary for a long time.

"And so, when an employer refuses to meet employees about all this, problems inevitably occur. We were forced either to see out our contracts until September or stand on principal and force ZCU to address our grievances. In putting our international careers on the line it was a sure sign we had had enough. It turned out we were all sacked three times in a month. Can that have happened any where before?

"Our motivation was never about money, simply the principle of merit selection, which is understood and respected by every sporting country in the world. I just want to add that we are not political and we are not rebels - as many are calling us.

"We are keeping together as a group in the hope of joining with a new board of directors and a new selection panel one day."

During the tour of England the players are due to send a delegation to meet International Cricket Council (ICC) executives. By the time that happens, an ICC 14-day ultimatum to ZCU to sort out the Union-player impasse will have expired and the ICC will try to resolve the dispute itself.

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