Zimbabwean cricket is in the news again.
Only this time, it’s not because their leading players are resigning in
political protest or because their national side has been humbled by an
Australian, English or South African under-19 team.

Zimbabwe has excused itself from Test cricket until 2007.
Peter Chingoka, the chairman of the caretaker board, announced the self-imposed
exile yesterday, saying, in not so many words, that the lads just don’t make
the grade at the moment.

“The young teams remain full of potential
and hopes abound for their development into a strong and competitive performer
on the Test arena,” a Zimbabwe Cricket press release said optimistically.

The announcement comes after a meeting
Chingoka had with ICC chairman Malcolm Speed last week. You suspect Speed and
Chingoka agreed that the “we’re not competitive” line was the most palatable to
the cricketing public. Recent performances, and even past performances, don’t
exactly contradict it.

But it’s just as likely to be about giving Zimbabwe
a chance to reorganise itself. The players have long been at loggerheads with
the governing body. Strike action has been threatened as recently as last
November, but following assurances that their contractual issues would be
looked at by the end of January, the players promised to keep playing.

As the BBC reported,
the most recent dispute started when captain Tatenda Taibu resigned in protest
over the way cricket in Zimbabwe was being managed. To compound matters, Chingoka and ZC’s managing
director Ozias Bvute became involved in a fraud
investigation, and two players have been questioned over breaches of Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange law. Put bluntly, the last
six months have been a mess.

Stepping off the international stage will
no doubt give Zimbabwe some breathing space to reorganise its Test team. But it also takes
the heat off the ICC. They’ll get a pleasing twelve-month break from the debate
about whether the “Zimbabwean experiment” should be abandoned until the nation is
better organised (we can’t think of a better euphemism than that) to handle a
major international sport like cricket.

The biggest losers? No doubt it’s the
opposition players, whose batting and bowling averages will miss having Zimbabwe
on the international Test scene.