Cricket, like all modern sports, is managed and run with the main priority being the acquisition of vast profits. Money is king; money talks. Often, the development of the game and the development of talent that could enhance it is left behind as the money isn’t perceived to be there in support of it, or the cost isn’t seen as worth the potential long-term benefits.
Over the weekend Kyle Jarvis joined the ranks of Sean and Craig Ervine, Ray Price, Andy Flower, Henry Olonga, Murray Goodwin and many others in leaving Zimbabwe (in many of these cases leaving indefinitely) and it’s national cricketing side in search of a financially viable career within the sport.
Kyle Jarvis leaves just days after senior players within the side, including the captain Brendon Taylor and other veterans such as Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda, created a form of players’ union, in the hopes of earning far higher than they do per-Test, ODI and T20 appearances.
The Zimbabwean economy has been in free-fall since the early 2000s, largely due to the controversial acceleration in pace of land ownership reforms that sought to re-address the ethnic imbalance of agricultural demographics: a sore left over from colonial Africa. Though I do not wish to go into any depth on the pros-and-cons of these controversial developments, the primary consequences of these policies resulted in a reduction of agricultural production by around a third, and Western governments responding by placing sanctions against Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and in many instances, halting any financial aid.
Zimbabwe’s economic problems reached a peak in 2009, when they experienced drastic hyperinflation; at the height of this instability, $1.2 trillion Zimbabwean dollars was worth about one British pound. The Zimbabwean dollar was abandoned that year, and since, the country has not had a stable currency, typically US dollars are employed as the standard tender.
Inside of this fractured economy, Zimbabwean players and contract holders are paid handsomely. But in a country where upheaval never seems too far away, job security – and indeed one’s own – must seem fragile. Craig Ervine for example missed out on a central contract and was forced to face the reality that he was set to earn around $100 dollars a week if he were to take a winter contract: Ervine chose to ply his trade in English club cricket instead.
Zimbabwe Cricket (henceforth referred to as ZC) face heavy debts as the sport has been unable to escape the economic downsizing in the country as a whole, the reality for them is that if they were to meet the players’ demand for increased financial stability, hosting tours and touring would have to be reduced. Financially ZC can’t afford to pay the players what they desire: so the players leave the country, which results in Zimbabwe being unable to field a competitive side, thus losing potential television revenue as other big sides see playing Zimbabwe as a task not worth their time. It is a horrible cycle and it feels as though good times are very far away indeed.
Kyle Jarvis has been a figurehead since Zimbabwe resumed playing Tests in 2011. He has been a revelation. With a beautifully smooth run up, and repeatable, well-manufactured, Glenn McGrath-esque action, Jarvis bowls incisive outswing at a good pace. An average of 31 is pretty much par for twenty-first century seamers, but being able to boast of such an average when playing for such a weak side is very encouraging.
Just twenty four years of age, Jarvis is bound to have a long, successful career in the sport. But money talks; a sportsman has a short career and must make what they can in that time. Jarvis cannot be blamed for turning his back on his country, but ZC needs support should anyone ever hope to see Zimbabwean cricket in a healthy state again.
When one looks at the bloated excess of the IPL, one wonders: if only 2% of the television profits from that competition was put into the weaker nations… If only.