ZC to adopt franchise system around Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Masvingo

Posted by brmtaylor.com admin on May 08, 2009

The Herald has revealed that ZC has chosen to adopt a franchise system for domestic cricket - a decision reached after a recent extraordinary general meeting on Thursday. This comes after the ICC recommended domestic structures should become more decentralised.

It's still uncertain whether the franchises will see the teams change names to reflect the cities, like the IPL model. Currently the domestic provincial teams are Northerns, Westerns, Centrals and Easterns. Southerns, the fifth team, was removed for the 2008-09 domestic season but solid performances this year have suggested that perhaps the system would cope with the return of a fifth franchise.

ZC will grant the franchises, which comes with the responsibility of administering cricket in the region and implementing a viable business model. Given the state of the economy, it is hard to see businesses lining up to support the local franchise but it is a step in the right direction, and they will be given an annual grant by ZC to allow them to contract players, employ staff and maintain a venue.. Particularly if the teams take on the name of their major city, it could evoke passion amongst the supporters to get behind their players - something which has been sorely lacking since the provincial teams (Mashonaland, Matabeleland, Manicaland, Midlands, Masvingo) were disbanded.

The franchises will be able to select players from the current pool of players as well as being given freedom to lure back former players. With the franchises now in complete control of player management (for domestic cricket), there is the possibility that former players will return as it seems they may not have to go through ZC. There are many former players currently playing club cricket in social leagues who would be valuable additions to the domestic structures.

The five initial franchises will be awarded to Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Masvingo. Their home grounds will be as follows:
- Harare at Harare Sports Club
- Bulawayo at Queens Sports Club
- Mutare at Mutare Sports Club
- Kwekwe at Kwekwe Sports Club
- Masvingo Sports Club

Sadly, cricket has all but died in Hwange and as such there will be no immediate plans to introduce a franchise there.

This is an exciting change of direction for domestic cricket, with the franchise system there will be a much greater emphasis on management at provincial level.

The distribution of players will be the most fascinating feature of the new system. Currently there is no denying that there are only two major players in domestic cricket; Northerns (Harare/Mashonaland) and Easterns (Mutare/Manicaland)

To make the contests fairer, there should be a focus on - for the smaller cities (Mutare, Kwekwe and Masvingo) - getting more local players in the team. As it stands, over 80% of the player pool consists of players from Harare. Beyond that, the teams should be of reasonably equal strength.

Theoretically: the domestic draft system

A draft system, with appropriate concessions, could be used to achieve this. Currently the teams are ranked (in order from best to worst, performance wise): Easterns, Northerns, Centrals, Westerns. This would relate to: Mutare, Harare, Kwekwe, Bulawayo, Masvingo (being the newest team, Masvingo would be given the most priority).

In the draft every season, the lowest ranked team can receive a "priority pick", in addition to their first regular draft pick. In essence, this allows the lowest ranked team to have 2 draft picks in the first round as follows:

Draft: Round 1

#1: Masvingo
#2: Masvingo
#3: Bulawayo
#4: Kwekwe
#5: Harare
#6: Mutare

Draft: Round 2

#7: Masvingo
#8: Bulawayo
#9: Kwekwe
#10: Harare
#11: Mutare


In order to ensure the make-up of each franchise reflects the local city, the major cities (Harare and Bulawayo) would have to field at least 6 local players. The smaller cities would have to field 3 local players. This could be guaranteed through the draft by forcing the franchises - for the first year only - to pick local players for the first 3 (and for Harare and Bulawayo, the must pick 3 more local players at some point during the draft - but not necessarily in rounds 4 to 6). A rookie system to promote uncontracted young players or successful (but domestically uncontracted) club cricketers during the season would ensure that these numbers would always be attainable.

However the draft system alone could punish successful teams unfairly, so certain concessions should be made.

A veterans list could be set up to ensure long-time players are not forced to leave their home team. These players would not have to participate in the draft, as they would automatically stay with their team. A "10 year commitment" - (ie. having played First Class cricket in or before the 1999-00 season, with the majority of cricket being played for that team) would be suitable, and would ensure that the following players would stay with their teams for the 2009-10 season.

Harare: Ray Price, Tatenda Taibu Mutare: Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri Bulawayo: Mark Vermeulen, Charles Coventry, Keith Dabengwa Kwekwe: - Masvingo: -

As in the IPL, a marquee player (not necessarily the captain, but potentially) could be selected by each team prior to the draft. This player would have to be someone that is playing for them now, or in the case of Masvingo - had played for Southerns. For instance, Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo, Kwekwe and Masvingo may choose to have Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller and Chamu Chibhabha as their marquee players in order to risk losing them to other franchises in the draft.

In summary:

- A draft system based on final end-of-year rankings
- Harare and Bulawayo need to field at least 6 local players per match
- Kwekwe, Mutare, Masvingo need to field at least 3 local players per match
- A veterans list for "10+ year players" would ensure long-time player are not forced to leave their team
- Each team can nominate one marquee player who played for them during the 2008-09 season (or for Southerns in 2007-08).

There could be other concessions, such as with regards to under-19 players and especially uncapped players, but overall this would be a good starting point as it would ensure the majority of current star players of each team "don't go anywhere" while allowing the emerging talent to move to other provinces to boost their respective new teams.

For instance, you might be thinking that a team like Harare would be in danger of losing some of their star players such as Graeme Cremer or Regis Chakabva. They would not, if they used their draft picks wisely. Potentially, their drafting process could look like this:

Veteran listed players: Ray Price, Tatenda Taibu
Marquee player: Elton Chigumbura
Draft pick #1: Graeme Cremer
Draft pick #2: Admire Manyumwa
Draft pick #3: Regis Chakabva

So already, Harare have retained the bulk of the talent of their current Northerns team. Because of the local player concession, none of the other teams would be able to touch Cremer, Manyumwa or Chakabva (or any other Northerns player) for those first 3 rounds. However, after 3 rounds of draft picks the other lower ranked teams (Masvingo, Bulawayo and Kwekwe) could poach Northerns players as they have higher picks than Harare. For instance, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Kwekwe could choose to take Cephas Zhuwawo, Prince Masvaure and Trevor Garwe - players which would all boost those respective squads significantly - all between Harare's 3rd and 4th draft pick.

Will this ever happen? Probably not. But there is no doubt this would be a very interesting new addition to the domestic structures and it would go some way towards making the competition more even.