BY Kevin Mapasure
Zimbabwe Cricket’s hopes of salvaging their limited overs home series against Afghanistan next month suffered a blow after the sport code was removed from the list of low-risk disciplines that can resume normal games.
The government lifted restrictions on low-risk sports and cricket had made the initial list for the codes that pose less risk in the transmission of COVID-19. Cricket was, however, omitted from the list published in Statutory Instrument 110 of 2020.
Low-risk sport codes including swimming, archery, athletics, rowing, cycling, equestrian events, fencing, golf, gymnastics, motor sports/BMX, shooting, tennis, chess, darts, drafts and pool can now resume.
Last week, the Sports and Recreation Commission listed cricket among the low-risk sports that could resume activities, but the media release was later trashed with the government insisting that the issue was still at consultative stage.
Cricketers were set to start training in the hope that they could still host Afghanistan for a T-20 series next month, but they will have to keep their bats and pads safely stored.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa on Monday announced that low-risk sports could resume under strict conditions that include tests and the use of protective equipment, among others.
“As announced by His Excellency, the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa), low-risk sporting is now allowed to take place and this is promulgated by Statutory Instrument 110 of 2020,” she said.
“Venues at which low-risk sporting takes place must be open between 8am and 4:30pm. Spectators should not exceed 50 people at these venues.”
Spectators are expected to go through screening and temperature tests while support staff handling equipment are to wear gloves and masks.
The sale of alcoholic beverages at the venues is banned.
ZC board chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani said his organisation was hoping to salvage the Afghanistan, India and Australia series but added that the safety and wellbeing of players, coaches and spectators were the main priority at this stage.
“We are hoping we can salvage those tours, but what is important is that the players and coaches are safe and healthy,” he said.
“We have not been listed as one of the low-risk sports, but what would have been ideal for us would have been for the players to at least get back to training for them to have access to their gym, fitness trainer and physio. If that is not possible, then we have to wait. In any case, even if today we are allowed to resume activities, it doesn’t follow that we can immediately play international cricket, it’s not all up to us. There are other factors such as our broadcasters who are based outside the country. It would depend on whether they can travel from their bases and the same applies to the production teams and umpires. So we will see when we finally get restrictions lifted whether we can salvage some of the tours but we are still hopeful, there is still a bit of time.”
Zimbabwe were scheduled to host India, whose visit would boost the organisation’s coffers.
The ability to host India also depends on when the Indian Premier League can be scheduled.
India are pencilled to travel to Sri Lanka in July, but that tour still hangs in the balance.
After hosting India, Zimbabwe have a visit to Australia on their diary.
While the local cricketers cannot go out for bowling and batting sessions, at least they can do outdoor jogging, after government allowed it.
The inability to access gym facilities will also adversely affect cricketers as it will other sport codes.
Sport codes that are likely to be the last to be allowed to resume include football and rugby which are deemed high-risk.