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India take on hosts Zimbabwe today

The hosts are in the throes of a controversy over players? contracts.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2005 12:01 IST

While the Indian team concentrates on Tuesday’s final against the Kiwis, and taking the last league match of the tri-series against Zimbabwe as nothing more than a practice, the hosts are in the throes of another controversy, this time regarding players’ contracts.

Zimbabwe Cricket is offering a new set of contracts to the national players. According to the new conditions, just three players -- Tatenda Taibu, Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut -- have been clubbed in the top bracket, with national contracts.

"In keeping with international trends, not all the top players in the country will be given national contracts, which are offered to those players with impeccable records," said a release of ZC, the national governing body of the game.

The release stated: "Twenty-seven other top players have been offered level One contracts. They will have to perform well to be considered for the national contracts. The 30 players in the two categories will be paid stipulated monthly retainers, but stand to augment their earnings from the new incentive structure, which will greatly reward performance. This is meant to encourage the players to work harder.

"In addition, eight young players who have shown potential, will be offered cadetships. They will be attached to companies on the basis that they will be allowed to tour if selected." According to local media reports, these "other top players" will lose several benefits they used to enjoy like Nissan cars given to them. The reports add that the players would now have to use ZC buses while commuting to and from matches or practice sessions.

"We are withdrawing most of the benefits that the players enjoyed without performing on the field as we were basically rewarding inefficiency. We want to make selection more competitive so that players can deliver," ZC human resources general manager Wilfred Mukondiwa was quoted as saying in a local daily.

When contacted, some of the players said that they were yet to receive the new contracts, but added that it was unlikely to lead to any conflict. Asked whether this could lead to a fresh dispute which might affect the upcoming Test series against India, Zimbabwe players' Association chairman Mluleki Nkala told HT: "There is nothing like that and the association will have a meeting with the board in this regard."

Meanwhile, amidst the media craze surrounding Sunday's crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier between the Zimbabwean "Warriors" and the "Wasps" of Angola, where a victory for the hosts will propel them to the main round of the continent's biggest football competition for a second successive time, only a handful were bothered about cricket on Saturday.

The Indians kept themselves busy by playing tennis and swimming in the afternoon after a team dinner at the Delhi Durbar restaurant on Friday night, while the Zimbabweans had a practice session at the national academy ground. It was difficult for the media contingent to extract words on Sunday's inconsequential match from the India captain.

"It's an international match, that's the motivation, and we will try out a few who haven't got a chance in any of the matches so far," said Sourav Ganguly. "The names of those getting a look-in will be finalised only after checking what Greg Chappell has in mind."

However, there can be plusses of playing this sort of a match, especially for a side like India, which has a few players who would benefit from spending some time in the middle. Ganguly is one of them and he said that he wouldn't sit out and the other one is Virender Sehwag.

For almost everybody else apart from those who haven't been tried out on this tour so far, there isn't much in this match. It's from the point of these players, including the seasoned ones short on match practice, that this match is an important one. The complete lack of interest surrounding the game notwithstanding.

First Published: Sep 04, 2005 04:15 IST