Zimbabwe players head for the UK

Eight of Zimbabwe’s 16-man squad which will be touring the Caribbean later this month will be joining clubs in the United Kingdom rather than returning home at the conclusion of the series.

The eight – Terry Duffin, Edward Rainsford, Prosper Utseya, Elton Chigumbura, Brendan Taylor, Keegan Meth, Greg Strydom and Charles Coventry – will be joined by Waddington Mwayenga, who is a non-traveling reserve for the West Indies tour. Rainsford will leave the Caribbean after the fourth of seven ODIs to enable him to fulfill his contractual obligations.

The early departures were thrown into some confusion with media reports that Zimbabwe had contracted to remain in the Caribbean for an extra seven days to play a tri-series with Bermuda and Canada in Trinidad.

While some suggested that a few of the players might not return at the end of the English summer, that was not the feeling of Andy Pycroft, the team manager. “The conditions are different there and it’s only club cricket,” he told the Zimbabwe Independent. “The standards are not as good as here when they are playing international cricket.

“If there is going to be a problem with them going, it will be the conditions there. The wickets there will be wet and they will be the only professionals at the clubs. Some of the clubs they are going to have never had professional players. So there will be pressure weighing on their shoulders. They will have to perform like professionals. If they don’t do that, it will be trouble because the clubs will start talking about reducing their pay and things like that.”

But Pycroft’s comments were rubbished by a senior league official in the south of England. “To say the standard in club cricket is worse than club cricket is a bit rich. Many of the players concerned are not actually good enough to play for top-level clubs rather than being too good.

“And to suggest that clubs don’t know how to deal with professionals is daft,” he added. “Hundreds of overseas cricketers play under such conditions ever summer without the problems Pycroft mentions.”

Other former Zimbabwe players are already in the UK and playing outside the County Championship. In recent weeks Tinashe Panyangara, Gavin Ewing and Colin de Grandhomme have arrived, while Tatenda Taibu is already at Pyrford in Surrey and Stuart Matsikenyeri is trying to obtain a work permit to enable him to join a club in Birmingham.

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