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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 12:59 GMT
Fears for Zimbabwe cricket
By Thrasy Petropoulos
BBC Sport in South Africa

Former Zimbabwe stars Neil Johnson and Bryan Strang have voiced serious concerns that cricket in the country is in danger of dying out.

Johnson, who only four years ago was a symbol of Zimbabwe's hidden strengths, and bowler Strang have strongly criticised the current regime.

Along with Murray Goodwin, Johnson retired from international cricket shortly after the last World Cup when Zimbabwe famously beat South Africa and India to reach the second round.

You don't always get the teams you want but I'm not permitted to discuss what went on in selection
Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak
And with Andy Flower following suit after Saturday's game against Sri Lanka, he believes Zimbabwean cricket could now fade into obscurity.

"The biggest problem for the cricketers is what's going on around their homes," Johnson told the BBC Sport website.

"This is the way these cricketers have chosen to make a living. And there has to be a question of whether Zimbabwe cricket will exist for much longer after this."

He added: "There have been some pretty high profile cricketers leaving recently, including myself, and now Andy Flower is quitting.

"Andy held the team together - he was the core. He was the reason why they were competitive.

"I can't see anyone replacing him."

Johnson's comments follow an embarrassing defeat to Kenya, which ended Zimbabwe's hopes of a World Cup semi-final place.

Andy Pycroft resigned as a selector because he was not consulted over the selection of the team and captain Heath Streak blamed politics for his side's lacklustre display in the tournament.

Strang told BBC Sport he had quit because he was "sick and tired of the politics".

He said: "You can't carry one player, let alone three of four.

"I no longer felt I had a part to play."

Four years ago we were a good team, a good unit - it has crumbled so quickly
Neil Johnson
Johnson agreed the atmosphere within the team is being severely affected by the confusing policies of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.

"There are many administrators who have done a lot of good for the team," he went on.

"But there are others, who don't have the best interests of the game at heart, who seem to be there only to further their political ambition.

"I just don't understand what is happening with selection.

"Last season Stuart Carlisle was captain and now we don't even hear about him anymore.

"Then it was Alistair Campbell and he didn't make the initial World Cup squad.

"It is very sad. Four years ago we were a good team, a good unit. It has crumbled so quickly."

And Strang echoed his disquiet over the way the team was picked.

He said: "The upshot of the quota system meant that Andrew Flower, our premier batsman, and Alistair Campbell, our premier captain, were both sidelined.

"The selection panel was increased from three to five, with people who had not played first team cricket at school let alone at Test level being asked to select sides.

"The potential is there is, even now, with players like Dirk Viljoen and Stuart Carlisle, but neither was selected for this World Cup.

"Zimbabwean domestic cricket is very weak, which means that you have players in the national side who do not know how to perform under pressure.

"You then get an embarrassing situation like the Kenya match in which the players were clearly unable to deal with the pressure.





Links to more Zimbabwe stories


 

SEE ALSO
Flower to stand down
11 Mar 03 |  Zimbabwe
Buoyant Kenya reach semis
12 Mar 03 |  World Cup
Have Your Say on Zimbabwe
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say
Zimbabwe struggle to keep pace
25 Feb 03 |  Team Pages


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