Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
BULAWAYO’S ceremonial home of cricket, Queens Sports Club will be closed for at least two months to allow ground curators to work on the field ahead of next year’s International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup qualifiers.
Queens Sports Club is one of five venues that will be used for the qualifiers to choose two teams that will join the top eight ICC ODI rankings at the 2019 Cricket World Cup in the United Kingdom.
The qualifiers will be a 10-team event and big-name players such as Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine could be playing in Zimbabwe after the West Indies failed to gain direct entry to the main tournament.
They will be joined by the bottom three ranked ICC ODI nations Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland as well the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and top two from the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 will take part in the qualifiers.
Other venues that the ICC inspected and approved in August, include Harare Sports Club, Takashinga in Highfield, Harare, Bulawayo Athletic Club and Kwekwe Sports Club.
Bangladesh were initially scheduled to host the event, but qualified directly to the tournament proper due to their world ranking.
Ireland, the UAE and Scotland were also vying to have the matches played in their countries, but Zimbabwe was given the nod after ICC chairperson Shashank Manohar visited the country in August.
Hosting the World Cup Qualifiers has been seen as a boost to Zimbabwe Cricket as they try to resurrect the sport in the country.
Vumi Moyo, chairman of Bulawayo Metropolitan Cricket Association, confirmed that Queens and other venues will undergo maintenance.
“Queens Sports Club will have the whole field scarified in preparation for next year’s major World Cup qualifiers. This means the venue will be unusable for at least two to three months. The same process will happen to other venues to be used for the qualifiers depending on the state of their fields,” said Moyo.
Moyo said organisers of the domestic cricket league will now have to juggle around to have games played at available venues.
The development also means organisers of the annual end of year music gig, Kalawa Homecoming, have to identify another venue since Queens Sports Club will not be available.
“We will miss out on one of our biggest cash cows of the year, the Kalawa show. We usually use that money to maintain the facility,” said Moyo.