Highly placed International Cricket Council (ICC) sources have told me that by the 15 April they will decide what to do should the British government refuse to grant a visa to the head of Zimbabwean cricket Peter Chingoka to visit London for the annual ICC meeting to be held at Lord’s in June.
Chingoka was refused a visa when the hearings on the Australian umpire Darrell Hair took place last autumn.
The ICC has made it clear if Chingoka is not allowed in this time the June meeting will be moved from Lord’s, probably back to their headquarters in Dubai, cutting ICC’s last link to its birthplace.
A visa refusal will also cast a huge shadow over the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup to be held in England.
If Chingoka is refused entry then the ICC will see this as signal that the British government may impose similar restrictions on Zimbabwean officials attending the 2009 tournament. The ICC will find this unacceptable and move the tournament from England.
Chingoka’s visa application could turn on a report on Zimbabwean cricket’s accounts prepared by KPMG, South Africa.
Three weeks ago when ICC officials met the British Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports Andy Burnham he repeatedly asked to be given a copy of this document.
But the ICC refused, arguing it is an internal document, and their failure to provide this document could well mean the British government deny Chingoka a visa.
One ICC source said to me: “What right has the British government to demand this document? It’s none of their business”.
The report was discussed at the ICC Executive Board meeting in Dubai last week and the subsequent public statement about Zimbabwean accounts was bland saying there was no fraud and no one had benefited.
However I am told this was public spin put on it in by ICC’s South African President Ray Mali and that the meeting was a very fraught one.
As readers of my blog will know back in June I revealed major problems in Zimbabwean accounts based on a confidential report prepared by ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed and head of finance Faisal Hasnain.
It was damning about Zimbabwe’s accounts and concluded no reliance could be placed on its balance sheet. It was this that led to the KPMG’s forensic audit.
I am told the KPMG report was first considered by the ICC audit committee headed by New Zealand representative Sir John Andersen. The audit committee recommended that the report be referred to the ICC Ethics Committee.
However when the executive board met this was fiercely resisted by South Africa led by Mali and by the President of the South African cricket board Norman Arendse.
The audit showed some half a million pounds had been charged to Barclaycard accounts and revealed various other problems in the Zimbabwean cricket board’s accounting.
But Mali told the meeting that he had met Chingoka and he had told him that he had not profited personally.
With Arendse also pitching in support for Chingoka and India throwing its weight behind the South Africans the audit committee’s recommendations were easily overturned and eventually even the three countries keenest to bring Zimbabwean cricket to book - New Zealand, Australia and England - gave way.
However, the way it was handled rankled, with Malcolm Speed refusing to attend the press conference that followed, a remarkable thing for a chief executive to do.
And only Mali spoke about Zimbabwean accounts with former England and Wales Cricket Board chairman David Morgan - who takes over as ICC President in July - staying conspicuously silent.
Several countries feel very unhappy about the way the ICC decided to exonerate Chingoka and Zimbabwe’s finances. One ICC source told me, “The way South Africa handled this issue was disgusting."
The ICC meetings also revealed other problems within the organisation and the power of India.
It was decided that Imtiaz Patel, a South African who heads SA broadcaster Super Sport, will succeed Speed as chief executive with Inderjit Bindra, who has been the Indian ICC representative, becoming special adviser to the President.
However I understand that Morgan, who was part of the selection panel, was keener on another South African Haron Logart and this two-man replacement for Speed may have been an Indian game.
Patel is yet to confirm he will take up the role as ICC chief executive but that it seems is because of problems with his current employer Super Sport. He has the full backing of India.
At the beginning of February when Patel came to Dubai for his interviews Indian officials met him. Bindra was promoted as rival candidate but never wanted the job. India sees the Patel-Bindra axis as ideal for the paymasters of world cricket and India’s power cannot be doubted.
Indeed I am told they have made ICC general manager of cricket David Richardson eat humble pie.
Following the sledging between Australian and Indian players Richardson wrote to India asking them to reprimand Harbhajan Singh for his alleged comments on Matthew Hayden just as Australia had taken Hayden to task for his outburst on the Indian.
In his letter Richardson asked the Indians to respond within 24 hours.
I am told the letter provoked a furious response from India. They demanded, and got, an apology from Richardson for his temerity in proposing any such step.
Another lesson that you do not upset world cricket’s money men.