Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) has set its sights on reviving the country's once vibrant club cricket structures and the re-establishment of a national academy, as it moves closer to financial stability, having managed to nearly pay off its legacy debts amounting to US$27 million.
ZC's financial situation was one of the major talking points as the local cricket governing body held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) virtually for the first time in the organisation's history due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
ZC board chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani revealed that despite facing such a difficult year due to the country's suspension by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Covid-19 pandemic the cricket body emerged in a much stronger financial position.
"Perhaps the biggest irony of our lifetime, the very same horrible year saw us making huge strides towards making ZC debt-free," Mukuhlani said while presenting the chairman's report to delegates during the virtual AGM.
"At the close of the just-ended financial year, we had whittled the US$27 million legacy debt down to US$1 million, in the process breaking the chains that had enslaved our organisation to an unending cycle of financial troubles."
The repaid amounts included the US$6 million obligation to the ICC as well as the loans worth up to $10 million that were housed under the Zimbabwe Asset Management Company (ZAMCO).
"You will probably recall that when I was first elected as ZC chairman in 2015, I made it clear that my board's top priority would be to address our game's perennial viability challenges and to forge a sustainable financial and cricket future for our country," Mukuhlani said.
"That required us to implement an intricate debt resolution plan which ultimately saw us engaging ZAMCO to assume ZC's debts which had been choking the organisation because of high interest rates.
"Under the arrangement, we were supposed to settle the ZAMCO obligations by 2023 but, as we take stock of the period under review, I am proud to report that - a whole three years earlier - ZC is nearly debt-free."
Mukuhlani said after clearing most of the crippling dept ZC would be turning its attention to the development of the game's grassroots structures which includes the revival of club cricket and the re-establishment of a national academy.
ZC is also planning to breathe new life to first-class cricket in the country, while the establishment of a provincial women's competition is also being mooted.
Mukuhlani also reflected on the devastating effects of the ICC's suspension of the country's membership and the coronavirus pandemic during the 2019/20 year.
"From the game teetering on the brink of collapse to a global health crisis on a scale not seen in over a century, 2019/20 should probably go down in history as a massive write-off," Mukuhlani said.
"When we thought the worst was over, then came the coronavirus pandemic that plunged the world into a crisis like no other, with millions infected and hundreds of thousands succumbing to the respiratory disease," Mukuhlani said.
"The pandemic caused the most significant disruption to the worldwide sporting calendar since World War II that saw international series being postponed and major tournaments being thrown into doubt.
"For us, it was a devastating blow, messing up what would have been a fairly busy calendar for Zimbabwe - something we desperately needed after enduring a terrible start to 2019/20."
ZC acting managing director Givemore Makoni also reiterated that the organisation would prioritise boosting its game development as well as domestic and international cricket structures.
". . . having successfully navigated a 2019/20 that threw suspension, financial troubles, a deadly virus and everything bad at us, I find pleasure in reflecting on how ZC managed to cope with such a myriad of challenges to emerge in a much stronger position," Makoni said in his report during the virtual AGM.
"Indeed, the beauty of the mess - an oxymoron if ever there was one - was our ability to make the most of the difficult situation.
"This would not have been possible without the commitment, hard work and massive sacrifices made by our management and staff who had to face layoffs, take pay cuts and operate within shoe-string budgets to ensure cricket continued being played at all levels.
"The difficulties we faced - and conquered - in 2019/20 could only prepare us for a better future.
"As we all know, domestic competitions are seen by the cricket world as the barometer of the game's health.
"We are therefore going to strengthen our domestic competitions and our entire pathway to ensure that in the end our national teams, both male and female, are very competitive and capable of qualifying for and doing well at the major global tournaments."