Cash crunch threatens to derail Zimbabwe's season

Zimbabwe's fans did not have much to cheer about in the morning session AFP

Zimbabwe's ongoing cash crunch is threatening to disrupt - if not entirely wipe out - their forthcoming international season. Pakistan are due to visit Zimbabwe for an all-format tour over July-August but there is a distinct possibility it may not go ahead at all.

Before that visit, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) have been in negotiations to arrange a limited-overs tri-series with Australia and Pakistan in June, but the status of that is also currently in doubt.

"Finances may not allow the [Pakistan] series to go ahead because we don't get a lot from our TV contract, and the series ends up - the production costs result in huge losses," Faisal Hasnain, ZC's managing director told ESPNcricinfo. "Given our current cash situation, in order to balance our books, we may actually have to either renegotiate the format or we may have to postpone it until such time as we are ready to play."

Hasnain was in Lahore recently to discuss the matter with PCB officials, who have indicated that they will support whatever decision ZC makes. As it stands, Pakistan are supposed to play two Tests, three ODIs and two T20s on the tour. No side has played more internationals in Zimbabwe since the start of 2011 than Pakistan; they have toured thrice since then, twice for all-format visits and once for a limited-overs only tour.

On the current FTP, Australia are scheduled to tour Zimbabwe in June for a bilateral series as well - including one Test - but it appears that commitment has transformed into the tri-series. But even that is hostage to the financial difficulties of the board.

"We are looking at all of that to see whether we have the tri-series only, the Pakistan series only, or we change the format," Hasnain said. "We are just working through, considering our options at the moment."

ZC are expected to take a final call on the schedule within the next 2-3 weeks.

But if the commitments do not materialise, it will not be a surprise - scaling back on home commitments is something ZC first flagged late last year. So acute has the crisis become, that ZC has postponed its domestic cricket while also having to delay salary payments to board staff and players.

It could be that the only top-quality cricket fans will be able to see in the country are the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, which are due to begin from March 4. The three-week tournament will be played across four venues in Bulawayo and Harare. The qualifiers being an ICC event, remain unaffected by ZC's cash troubles.