Former franchise cricket side Southern Rocks begins life as a Zimbabwe Cricket developmental project with the aim to identify and nurture talent as well as create a strong player base by the time Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) reviews the franchise positions.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
The project is set to cover Masvingo and Matabeleland South, the relative provinces that make up the Southern Rocks or the Southern cricket region.
In an interview with Standardsport, Southern Rocks area manager Emmanuel Dube revealed that Southern Rocks is still alive but at a different capacity and may even bounce back stronger in three years’ time when the local cricket mother body reviews the franchise position.
“Southern Rocks is still alive.What has been taken away from us is the franchise status which shall be reviewed in about three years time, according to International Cricket Council (ICC) recommendations on how Zimbabwe can improve its financial standing.
“We are hoping that we will get back our franchise status if all goes well, but in the meantime we are doing developmental cricket and we have already started by introducing softball cricket in all primary schools here in Masvingo,” Dube said.
Acting on the advice from the ICC, ZC decided to reduce the number of franchises from five to four a few months ago in order to cut on costs and help improve the association’s financial standing.
Southern Rocks was not the worst franchise side in terms of achievement. The team had the fewest home-grown players such that most of their players were not from the representative regions, resulting in inflated logistical costs.
Top players in the mould of West Indies legend Brian Lara, former Kenya captain Steve Tikolo, Englishman Ryan Sidebottom, Sean Irvine, Chamu Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza Butt among many others, donned the Rocks’ maroon stripes.
Southern Rocks’ immediate task is to capture cricket talent at grassroots level.
“Softball cricket, which targets grade three to five pupils in primary schools, starts next week, our aim being to assemble strong Under-11 and Under-13 teams that will progress to represent their schools, the province, Naph competitions and feed into the Southern Rocks leagues,” Dube said.
“We have struggled over the years to put up a competitive league in our region because of the low numbers that we have at junior level and we want to correct that and make sure we create a very strong local league,” added Dube.
Dube also revealed plans to introduce competitive cricket in the three Masvingo secondary schools in order to get enough numbers to play for the local clubs.
Masvingo Sports Club, Mutirikwi, Hungwe, Scorpions, Mucheke are the five Masvingo-based clubs which will battle it out for top honours in the local league and from which the Southern Rocks team for the national league will be chosen from.
Sadly, clubs from outside Masvingo cannot be part of the league due to lack of finances.
Dube established that there is a lot of cricket happening in Triangle where there are two clubs which engage each other regularly in two day games as well as schools competitions.
“What we are working with in Masvingo are pilot programmes that we will introduce to other areas in our region, such as Chiredzi, Triangle and Matabeleland South. Coaching and umpiring clinics will be organised from now going forward to equip the teachers,” said Dube.
Clearly, for Southern Rocks the memorable experiences of franchise cricket are still vivid, let alone the 2010-11 Metbank Pro40 championship success and one hopes they will bounce back into franchise cricket stronger and better.