Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter 

ZIMBABWE Cricket (ZC) on Wednesday officially launched a new national club cricket competition, the National Premier League (NPL), which gets underway with action at venues across the country on Sunday.

The eagerly awaited 45-over tournament will see Zimbabwe’s top nine cricket clubs fight it out in what should be entertaining 36-match tournament.

Bulawayo’s Amakhosi, Queens Sports Club, the Harare quartet of Takashinga, Rainbow, Gladiators, Harare Kings, Great Zimbabwe (Masvingo), MidWest (Midlands) and Easterns (Manicaland) are the clubs taking part in the NPL.

Speaking at the launch, ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani said it was imperative for his board to make certain Zimbabwe’s cricket structures, including the club system, were healthy and vibrant.

“Cricket is not just about the national team, the future of ZC is premised on having a decent pipeline that produces proper cricketers and that is the reason why we have said after dealing with the elephant in the room, the financial issues of ZC, we needed to go back to the basics, to the grassroots to do the basic things,” Mukuhlani said.

ZC are hoping that by attending to club cricket, that can then solve issues with first class cricket and subsequently the national team.

“The starting point is to have our club cricket back. A strong club system fixes the problems at first-class level and when first-class cricket is fixed, there’s no problem at national team level. The problem we have had over the years is we have been focusing on the national team and not where the person in the national team is coming from,’’ said Mukuhlani.

The launch event also saw the unveiling of the NPL trophy as well as the participating clubs’ colourful playing uniforms.

Several Zimbabwe international players have been signed up by the clubs for the inaugural season, which should make the NPL even more competitive.

“I’m really excited about what’s about to happen and I’m really excited about what the future holds for us as Zimbabwe Cricket. This is an elite strength versus strength competition at club level , so the clubs that have been at the top of their leagues at provincial level will be going head to head,’’ said ZC director of cricket Hamilton Masakadza.

Opening fixtures will see a Bulawayo affair between Amakhosi and Queens at Queens Sports Club, MidWest host Takashinga at Kwekwe Sports Club , Great Zimbabwe clash with Harare Kings at Mutare Sports Club, while Rainbow take on Gladiators at Harare Sports Club.