KIRSTY Coventry, Zimbabwe’s most successful athlete, has backed Sports Minister David Coltart’s directive that selectors for the national cricket team should have played for their country.
Coltart has been accused of leading a racist plot to shut out blacks from cricket, which he strongly denies.
And now Coventry, the two-time Olympic swimming champion, has launched a defence of Coltart’s directive which takes effect from February.
She said on Sunday: “I support the directive to ensure all national selectors have previously represented Zimbabwe in their sport. This is logical.
“If I were up for selection, I would want my selectors to have, at the very least, participated in that sport on a national level. I would trust them to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and what to look for in the athletes.”
But instead of the entire selectors’ panel having ex-national team players, Coventry is suggesting that some individuals with certain expertise could also be included.
“I believe a balanced approach would be better because I know you can be an expert in analysis etc without having participated (at national level). If required, then the majority of selectors, as a minimum, should have participated at a national level. As much diversity as we need, we also need balance,” she said.
Coltart has been forced to defend himself after Givemore Makoni, the convenor of selectors for the national cricket team, accused him of racism, claiming his directive would disadvantage individuals like whim who were excluded from the national team on racial grounds.
“Coltart promised fellow racists to restore the old order once he got into office and his grand plan is coming to its fruition now, but we will not allow that,” Makoni claimed.
“Coltart was a member of the ‘royal family’ of untouchables who wanted to make sure black players were excluded. We fought that system and now we are giving everyone equal opportunity and they want to reverse the gains of the prevailing peace.”
But the minister, while criticising Makoni’s highly intemperate comments, insists his move is aimed purely at improving standards.
Coltart said: “I have researched the issue of test cricket selectors in particular and I am intrigued to see that every other Test nation bar one – that is SA, Australia, India, West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and England – always use former Test players as, at the very least, chairman of selectors.
“Those I have been able to research on in detail – namely SA and Australia – have their entire panels comprised of former Test players. The only exception is New Zealand and look at the chaos in New Zealand cricket at present.
“There must be some logic behind these top cricketing nations' long standing policies to use the experience of former national players as selectors. Why should Zimbabwe be any different? I suppose only if we want to persist in mediocrity.”
And Coventry said it was important for selectors, coaches and administrators to be of the highest calibre – otherwise failure of national teams would continue to be blamed on players who may not always be properly equipped.
“We too often blame the team but fail to see the head that is old and rancid,” she said. “I’m not only referring to selectors but everyone in sport that has a responsibility.
“Sport requires constant change, development and motivation in order to ensure high standards are kept, talent is identified and experience and success is gained. Accountability needs to take place and if someone is not doing what he or she is supposed to, get rid of him or her.”