It~~s time to focus on on-field games: Chingoka

Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Harare:Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman Peter Chingoka said here that following the rejection of racism allegations against the ZCU by an International Cricket Council's (ICC) "eminent persons" adjudication, it was time to draw a line on off-the-field events over the last six months and return the spotlight to the field of play.

"Now that the Union has been cleared of racism, we can move forward with our core business, which is to administer play" he said, adding that if any of the sacked players want to return, they can still do so, but there must be no pre-conditions."

Asked by AFP whether at this late stage it was still not possible to informally try for a settlement, leaving aside expensive lawyers and previous negotiating positions, Chingoka said that it was possible.

But he appeared more concerned with the progress of the replacement Zimbabwe team towards Test cricket.

This will come with two Tests for 21-year old captain Tatenda Taibu and his very young team in Bangladesh during January and with two more against much tougher opposition in South Africa the following month.

It is then that the new Zimbabwe will face its most significant examination.

Meanwhile, Chingoka said that the national selectors have come up with a three-year plan "that details where we are, where we want to be and how we get there". It specifically looks ahead to the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

Clearly that plan does not include the possibility of a return by former captain Heath Streak, Stuart Carlisle and Trevor Gripper, who were sacked in April.

Chingoka said: "We envisage that the squad we have now will come into its own in the next two years. That the talent is there cannot be argued. What is lacking is experience and the players need continued exposure, particularly in the longer version of the game."

Chingoka said that since the introduction in 2001 of a formal programme designed to bring more Africans and Asians into the sport, the numbers playing cricket have increased from 15,000 to 60,000. "And within two to three years there will be 100,000 or more."

Asked about alleged racist remarks said to have been delivered by members of the ZCU board of directors towards whites, and to former managing director Vincent Hogg in particular, Chingoka said he had not heard any such remarks himself.

He brushed aside questions about the recent failed attempt at a hearing in Harare into such allegations so that such oral evidence could be heard, saying it was in the past and he wanted to move forward.

That evidence was not put forward because three players levelling the accusations refused to speak in the presence of ZCU directors. And Hogg was not called by the players' lawyer.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers' Association representatives are into their third of four days in Zimbabwe examining factors relating to safety and security of England players, officials and supporters when a series of five international One-day matches starts here on November 26. They will report to the ECB on their return to London Friday evening.

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