ICC attempts to save face on Zimbabwe

World cricket chiefs were locked in delicate negotiations on Tuesday to break the divide over strife-torn Zimbabwe and conjure a face-saving compromise, sources said.

While England and South Africa want Zimbabwe to be suspended from the International Cricket Council, the powerful Asian bloc led by the game’s economic powerhouse India is opposing the move.

“It’s a deadlock,” a senior cricket official who is attending ICC’s annual meetings here said. “Hopefully some sort of a compromise can be worked out.”

One solution on the cards is that Zimbabwe, which is already barred from playing Test cricket, will also be omitted from one-day and Twenty20 internationals but retain its status as a full ICC member.

This will clear the way for England to host the Twenty20 world championships next June without Zimbabwe, as demanded by the British government.

It will also enable Zimbabwe Cricket to retain its annual ICC funding of an estimated $10-million and develop the game through “A” team tours by other Test nations.

Cricket boards of South Africa and England last week suspended bilateral ties with Zimbabwe in protest at the deteriorating political situation in Harare where Robert Mugabe has been controversially re-elected as president.

The ICC’s decision-making executive board will debate the issue on Wednesday and Thursday.

At least seven of the ICC’s 10 full members—including Zimbabwe—must support any move to throw the African nation out of the sport’s governing body.

But the four Asian Test nations—India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh—are determined to block Zimbabwe’s ouster, leading to a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

“There is no reason to remove Zimbabwe,” said Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah on Monday.

“We understand England’s position because their government wants Zimbabwe out. Even our tour commitments are determined by government advice.

“But we will back Zimbabwe to stay in the ICC.”

If Zimbabwe retains its full membership, England risks losing the right to host the lucrative Twenty20 worlds in June next year if the British government denies visas to the Zimbabwean cricketers.

That will embarrass David Morgan, the former England cricket chief who takes over as the ICC president from South African Ray Mali this week.

Zimbabwe has not played Test cricket since hosting India in September 2005 after being told by the ICC to improve its playing standards.

But it retains an active one-day team which takes part in the World Cup.

Meanwhile, former Zimbabwean Test star John Traicos hoped the ICC will not ban his country from world cricket.

“If the principal reason for the moves towards banning Zimbabwe Cricket is the political situation in the country, then I do not believe that a ban is justified,” Traicos wrote on the Cricinfo website.

“If sanctions and other punitive action come into effect, there may well be limits placed on the ability of Zimbabwe cricketers to play internationally and of teams to visit Zimbabwe.

“The result will be a sad one for international cricket if a country that has under difficult circumstances developed the game reasonably successfully among its local population since 1992 is unable to participate in the sport internationally.

“A cricketing nation could be permanently severed from the game.” - AFP


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