Just days before its national team flies out to the West Indies for a full series against the Caribbeans, Zimbabwean cricket has been rocked by allegations of racism. Zimbabwe have been a hotbed of racism ever since it got ICC recognition with several 'white' players quitting the nation for safer pastures in nations like Australia. The recent row erupted after Sports Minister David Coltart made it a must for national selectors to have played for Zimbabwe.
According to website reports, Givemore Makoni, the convenor of selectors that picked the squad to the West Indies, accused Coltart of racism, arguing there was a very small pool of former black players to choose from and the Minister's directive would ultimately see the selection panel headed only by Whites. Makoni, of course, has never played for Zimbabwe.
The chief selector's allegation has stirred the hornet's nest. Expecting a backlash, Zimbabwe Cricket chief Peter Chingoka has summoned an urgent meeting among the game's chief stake holders to confront the issues. Zimbabwe Cricket has clearly said it wouldn't implement Coltart's directive, calling it to be "illegal".
Chingoka said on Tuesday: "There have been recent incidents that are disturbing. There have been reports of black and white players using separate buses on senior team tours.
"At the ICC Under 19 World Cup held in Australia in August last year, white batsmen alleged that blacks were bowling short pitched balls to them in the nets and counter allegations by black bowlers were that white fielders were reluctant to restrict runs from their deliveries.
"Our domestic leagues have not been spared either, as there has been a marked increase in the number of disciplinary allegations initiated by allegations of racism."
Chingoka's said his proposed summit was to discuss and unpack the elements of (our) strained race relations with the objective of creating mutual understanding and dealing with the demons that continue to haunt the sport, reports www.newzimbabwe.com.
Since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, cricket was primarily a white sport. In 2001, Zimbabwe Cricket established what it called an Integration Task Force aimed at enhancing opportunities for Blacks in cricket.
There was resistance to what some saw as affirmative action and an exodus of white players beginning in 2004 was seen by black players and administrators as a racist plot to weaken the team and project blacks as incapable.
Most of the players who quit, including the former captain Heath Streak, have since been reunited back as coaches after Zimbabwe Cricket extended an olive branch.