PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday said the hosting of the historic Zim Afro T10 on Zimbabwean soil for the first time was a step in the right direction as it fits into Government’s thrust to remodel the sport and recreation sector into a multi-million-dollar industry, in line with the National Sport and Recreation Policy and the quest to promote sport tourism.
The tournament, which represents franchise cricket’s first foray into Zimbabwe, and Africa, is expected to be an absolute carnival of cricket as an array of international cricket stars are expected to illuminate the stage at Harare Sports Club in the next nine days.
The T10 League has registered successes in the United Arab Emirates since its inception in 2017 by T10 Global Sports fronted by billionaire businessman Nawaz Shaji Ul Mulk.
Similar successes are expected in Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa said he was excited the tournament was coming on the backdrop of the successful 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier that was held in Harare and Bulawayo earlier this month.
“It is my pleasure to join you today at this momentous occasion as Zimbabwe becomes the second Full Member of the International Cricket Council to host the T10 Cricket League, after Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and the first country in Africa, to launch a T10 cricket League. Congratulations,” said President Mnangagwa.
“I am informed that the Zim Afro T10 League is an innovative and exciting fast-paced format of cricket, which continues to grow across the world.
“This particular event comes against the background where Zimbabwe Cricket has in the last few months been seized with various Cricket tournaments including the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers.
“Thereafter, the organisation has also been busy finalising modalities for hosting this tournament, to ensure that our facilities maintain the high standards which have become synonymous with Zimbabwe. Well done to Zimbabwe Cricket for the great job.
“Similarly, I want to express my gratitude to Mr Mulk and T10 Global Sports, for investing in the tournament. This dovetails with my Government’s efforts towards remodelling our sport and recreation industry into a multi-million-dollar industry, in line with the National Sport and Recreation Policy and quest to promote sport tourism.”
President Mnangagwa acknowledged the investment by T10 Global Sports and the role played by Zimbabwe Cricket in hosting international events.
Government has made a deliberate approach under the Second Republic to support the growth of the sport and recreation industry. Cricket, which used to be an elite sport, is slowly being transformed into a mass sport, as testified by the sold-out attendances in recent international games.
Zimbabwe Cricket has also expedited the development of the game through their Cricket Kumusha-Cricket Ekhaya programme, with support from the Government.
“As the Government, we are kitted out with pads, gloves and helmets on, and ready to play our part to ensure that cricket reaches all under-represented groups across every school and community,” said President Mnangagwa.
“It is my expectation that this tournament will also draw huge crowds, as we witnessed during the just ended ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023, which Zimbabwe successfully hosted.
“I guarantee you that regardless of
age, race, background or beliefs, our nation will join together and support the various teams in the uniquely Zimbabwean carnival atmosphere of song and dance.”
The fast-paced T10 league is the newest version of entertaining cricket that has taken the globe by storm.
Since its inception in Sharjah in 2017, the T10 League has grown in leaps and bounds. In its first year, the league returned over one million global viewership and now six years later, the league is estimated to register over 500 million global viewership.
The T10 is a unique format that sees 10 overs per innings which is roughly 90 minutes of fast paced “cricketainment”. It is a short, high-energy format loved by global audiences and international cricket stars alike.
Players from renowned cricket playing nations such as India, Pakistan, New Zealand, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, West Indies and South Africa will be part of the historic tournament.
Former World Cup winners Sreesanth, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan and Robin Uthappa are among six Indian cricketers who will play in the League.
Ex-England World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara (England), Evin Lewis (West Indies), Shahnawaz Dahani (Pakistan), Mohammed Nabi (Afghanistan), Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka) and New Zealand wicketkeeper/batsman Tim Seifert have all lined up for the tournament.
A number of current and former Zimbabwe national team players also got picked in the draft ahead of the historic tournament.
Zimbabwe national team captain Craig Ervine has been named captain of the Lahore Qalandars while all-rounder Sikandar Raza will lead the Bulawayo Braves. Sean Williams will also play a leadership role as vice-captain of the Cape Town Samp Army.
A host of talented young players also took part in the grassroots player development programme that will see five outstanding players under-25 years getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feature in the T10 League.
Five talented young players Tanunurwa Makoni (Braves), Jonathan Campbell (Samp Army), Owen Muzondo (Qalandars), Tinotenda Maposa (Hurricanes) and Matthew Campbell (Buffaloes) were also picked after a nationwide talent identification programme.
Ten more young players were given scholarships after impressing in schools programme designed by the T10 tournament organisers.
“Allow me to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Sports and Recreation Commission, Zimbabwe Cricket and the International Cricket Council for sanctioning this tournament.
“Tournaments such as this one will undoubtedly help inspire our local young talented cricketers, while also facilitating the identification of cricketing talent from across the world.
“I once again thank the investor Mr Mulk, sponsors, teams and other stakeholders for allowing Zimbabwe to showcase our passion for the game of cricket and everything else that makes Zimbabwe a wonderful country.
“To the players, you have waited long enough for this tournament to happen. I wish that you compete fairly and excite the world with your skill,” said the President.
He also invited the visiting international players and officials to visit Zimbabwe’s tourist sites.
“I invite you to spare some time to enjoy our many tourist attractions, including our ‘real game’, that is the BIG FIVE, Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and Rhino. I also invite those players and guests who are in Zimbabwe for the first time to visit our premier tourist destinations and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Majestic Mosi-Oa-Tunya, the Victoria Falls, ‘The Smoke that Thunders’,” President Mnangagwa said.
The organisers Zimbabwe Cricket and T10 Global Sports promised top class entertainment and, for the first time in the history of Zimbabwean cricket, the tournament will be played under flood lights, mostly as night games.
They have roped in Zim Cyber City as the title sponsors. The five teams that will be battling it out for top honours are the Durban Qalandars, Cape Town Samp Army, Harare Hurricanes, Bulawayo Braves and Johannesburg Buffaloes.
Zimbabwe Cricket Supporters Union has sourced 1 000 tickets per match for the Supporters Union.
Matches start at 3pm, 5pm and 8pm. Tickets are available at the gate at Harare Sports Club for $2, $5 for the stands and $10.
Today: Cape Town Samp Army v Lahore Qalandars (3pm), Joburg Buffaloes v Bulawayo Braves (5pm), Harare Hurricanes v Cape Town Samp Army (7pm)
Tomorrow: Lahore Qalandars v Joburg Buffaloes (3pm), Cape Town Samp Army v Bulawayo Braves (5pm), Joburg Buffaloes v Harare Hurricanes (7pm)