ZIMBABWE Cricket director of cricket, Hamilton Masakadza, believes the launch of the new National Premier League will be the game-changer in their quest to turn the national team into a competitive outfit.
The NPL, which is set to get underway this Sunday with nine teams drawn from across the country, was widely welcomed as an important platform that brings together the experienced and upcoming players.
Masakadza told the media he was excited with the return of the cricket league since the platform is credited with producing fine players of his generation like Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu and Tino Mawoyo, who is now the ZC marketing officer.
"I am really excited because our club cricket league is a platform where we get an opportunity for the young, and upcoming cricketers, to mix with all the experienced guys," he said.
"We do this at domestic level as well, in the provincial tournament, but, at this level, there is a little bit more opportunity as there are more teams coming together.
"I also started playing at this level when I was still in secondary school. I remember my first moments facing the then fastest bowlers in the country, the likes of Henry Olonga and Brighton Watambwa.
"Just the experiences of playing against the senior guys helped me in my career. That's exactly what we are trying to achieve," said Masakadza.
The competition, which is wholly sponsored by Zimbabwe Cricket, is one of the projects Masakadza and his office team have been working on since his appointment last year.
The league programme will run until November and the top team, at the end of the marathon, wins the NPL title and US$10 000 prize money.
The winners will be deciders after only one round of play.
The participating teams will include Amakhosi (Bulawayo), Great Zimbabwe Patriots (Masvingo), Harare Kings (Harare), Easterns (Mutare), Takashinga (Harare), Queens (Bulawayo), Rainbow (Harare), Gladiators (Harare) and MidWest Rhinos (Kwekwe).
To enhance competition, Masakadza said there was also going to be man-of-the-match awards in each game.
The games will be spread across the country with Harare Sports Club, Kwekwe Sports Club, Masvingo Sports Club, Queens Sports Club, Mutare Sports Club, Takashinga and Old Hararians all hosting the matches.
The previous national league was stopped, two years, ago due to financial constraints.
ZC chairman, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, said the organisation has decided to go back to the basics of the game after clearing the crippling legacy debts which amounted to US$27 million five years ago.
"We had that franchise system which I don't believe added a lot of value to Zimbabwe Cricket," he said.
"I would be saddened to see the NPL going through the same process.
"Throwing around money does not necessarily produce success. But, proper planning and execution of objectives, does produce cricketers.
"That's the main goal that we are here for as ZC."
The cricket authorities would want to see a decent club system feeding into the first class cricket and into the national team.
"The future of Zimbabwe Cricket is premised on us being able to have a decent pipeline that produces proper cricketers," said Mukuhlani.
"That is the reason why we have said that after we have dealt with the elephant in the room, that is the financial issues, as Zimbabwe Cricket, we need to go back to the basics.
"We need to go back to the grassroots to do the basic things and the starting point for us is to have our club cricket back.
"A strong club system fixes the problems with first class cricket.
"When the first class is fixed, then there is no issue at national team level. The problem that we had, over the years, was that we focused on the national team without focusing on where the person in the national team is coming from.
"I think our lowest level was when we lost to the UAE here in the World Cup qualifiers and, as an administrator and a fan, I will tell you that's unforgivable.
"Every national team player must have a club. It's actually an entry requirement for you to have a contract. Every senior player, every star in Zimbabwe Cricket has a duty to pass on to the next generation. So there are no sacred cows."