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ICC boxed in over Zimbabwe

Jonathan Agnew | 17:26 UK time, Wednesday, 25 June 2008

There's a quiet confidence in cricket circles that the ICC will suspend Zimbabwe from all international cricket next week.

This is based on the significant shift in the position of the South Africans, who have now halted all bilateral cricket relations with Zimbabwe.

The current president of the ICC, Ray Mali, is a South African, as is the new chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, and it will be the president who opens the debate around the table in Dubai on Wednesday, with his views now widely known.

Can you really imagine Mr Lorgat emerging after the meeting to announce that the ICC endorses Zimbabwe Cricket? In the current climate, it is absolutely unthinkable.

However, the England and Wales Cricket Board needs the ICC to act next week because without Zimbabwe's suspension, the ECB and the government would face the decision of having to ban the Zimbabwe team from next summer's World Twenty20.

ICC president Ray Mali

This is because the government has only barred Zimbabwe's cricketers, for whom we must all feel great sympathy, from the series of one-day internationals which are scheduled for May, and not the Twenty20 tournament in June.

There has been a spurious argument floated by both parties that there is a difference between a bilateral agreement and a world event, although for the life of me I can't see what it is.

It would be outrageously hypocritical to ban Zimbabwe one month on moral grounds, and then allow them in the next simply because England want to host the tournament which, otherwise, would be moved elsewhere.

Mind you, I'm not sure who else would stage it -.certainly Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would object, while the temperature on the sub-continent in June would be overbearing. There would also be the likelihood of Zimbabwe's matches being boycotted by some teams at least, with the tournament then being reduced to a complete farce.

All in all, the ICC has little option but to act. In the opinion of many, it has all happened far too late, but a sporting boycott of Zimbabwe will have little or no impact on the Mugabe regime.


  • Comment number 1.

    I agree, Aggers - Zimbabwe should be banned from BOTH competitions, otherwise it's a farce. Mind you, we're assuming that the situation there won't have changed by then, and Mad Mugabe will still be looning around; God willing, that won't be so, not just for cricket, but for the health and wellbeing of the Zimbabwean people.

  • Comment number 2.

    A sports boycott is completely irrelevant to plight of the Zimbabwean people and doesn’t deserve any further comment.

    Where’s the UN, USA ! When real help is needed.

  • Comment number 3.

    This particular sporting boycott is entirely relevant because the international cricket community, via the ICC, doesn't just play Zimbabwe Cricket, it provides the majority of its funding. Money is taken from cricket supporters in England and elsewhere and given to Zimbabwe Cricket. Zimbabwe Cricket spends most of its money on salaries and perks for administrators, who are members of the ZANU-PF elite. I believe ZC gets about $10 million a year from the ICC, which is perhaps 1% of the entire hard currency resources available to Mugabe to fund his regime. Thus while people talk about banning Zimbabwe from cricket as if it is only a sporting issue, it will actually be an effective economic sanction aimed directly at the pockets of the ZANU-PF elite.

  • Comment number 4.

    OliverChettle is, sadly, entirely correct. With Ozias Bvute in charge, Zimbabwe Cricket has been little more than the sports-veneered appendage of a brutal Zanu-PF machine. If you think that Mugabe's repressive regime doesn't have a hand in ZC, just remember what happened to Henry Olonga and Andy Flower five years ago. While a ban may be unfair to some of the current players, it hits directly at the corrupt power brokers - Mugabe cronies all - running cricket in Zimbabwe today.

  • Comment number 5.

    On an additional note to this topic, will it mean that a third associate team gets into the T20 World cup?

    The qualifying tournament is being held in Belfast on 2nd-4th August, so they need to make a decision about Zimbabwe's participation prior to this, as the tournament only has semifinals and a final, without a third place playoff - this would need to be introduced if Zimbabwe were thrown out and it's difficult to see ho wthe tournament schedule could be adapted to fit.

  • Comment number 6.

    There is never a great deal that sporting authorities can do to deal with a real crisis, but even a small protest is immeasurably better than none.

    Nobody imagines that banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 world cup would bring down Zanu PF. But even the smallest voices can be deafening in a crowd.

    To ban the ZCU outright is all that the ICC can do - and they shouldn't even consider doing anything less. To allow them to play one format and not another comes across as, if anything, a technicality - certainly not a protest.

    And, if the ICC will not act, the other nations should do so in their stead. It is disgraceful that there is even a suggestion of taking the tournament elsewhere if the ECB make a stand. Should the ICC search for a replacement host, every cricketing nation - large and small - should stand in solidarity with the ECB, and against Zanu PF.

  • Comment number 7.

    To me, it is incredible that anyone should contemplate allowing Zimbabwe to compete in cricket competions, while its government is carrying out a terror campaign with the sole aim of ensuring that Bob McGabe remains in power and escapes being brought to trial for crimes against his people, crimes against humanity, genocide, call it what you will, to be judged in his country or at the Hague.

    There is no comparison with what happened in South Africa many years ago. If the international community and especially the association of African countries, which have the greatest power to put a stop to what is happening in Zimbabwe, but are not yet totally accepitng their responsibility in this matter, then at least the cricket authorities should pronounce that Zimbababwe has placed itself beyond the pale and that there can be no question of their engaging in a sporting activity whose values are totally opposed to what is going on in this country.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great Britain has always had to be extremely cautious when it comes to condemning Mugabe or taking active measures such as bans and sanctions against Zimbabwe. Mugabe has hated Britain all his adult life, that's well known. But the memory of Britain's colonial interests in the country when it was Rhodesia and the whole Ian Smith period is still strong in the minds of many in that country. If the UK is too forceful in its stance towards Mugabe, he can use that whip up new nationalist fervour in Zimbabwe by playing on the memory of past oppression, and of course that fervour would translate into new violence. That's how Mugabe came to power in the first place. It's a been a political tightrope for decades.
    The ECB isn't stupid and that's why, where Zimbabwe is concerned, it often appears hesitant and looks to the Government to take a lead. Similarly, in this instance, they're looking to the ICC to make the decision for all cricketing nations so that Mugabe can't use a purely "English" decision as a weapon to bolster his position.

  • Comment number 9.

    Aggers is confident the ICC will finally ban Zimbabwe, but I have a horrible feeling that India might think long and hard before playing ball. After all, the Indian board loves to create friction with the ICC - and in some ways it is much more powerful than the ICC (certainly much richer). India has always been one of Zimbabwe's staunchest alliest within cricket, and if they don't vote to exclude Zim, it only requires two other nations - probably Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - to side with India, and Zimbabwe stay in.

    I'm not saying it will happen, but there is a chance.

  • Comment number 10.

    The ban will make a difference to those Zimbabweans who will hear all about it - the estimated 2 million displaced by Mugabe but still struggling away from home to make a just society in that sad country.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes - stop playing crickets against Zimbabwe for all the reasons given above. Every little helps. Mugabe's attitude, however, suggests that a sporting boycot will not have the same impact as is did upon South Africa. When are the UN going to get serious?

  • Comment number 12.

    Surely we don't have to worry too much. I'm sure that Peter Hain could be relied upon to dig up any pitches Zimbabwe were due to play on - being a principled politician who would never be so hypocritical to apply double standards to these situations (yeah, right).

  • Comment number 13.

    The ICC should have turned its back on Zimbabwe years ago. With the situation as it currently stands any boycott will be symbolic, but meaningless.

    As for who covers Zimbabwe fixtures in the twenty twenty how about creating an African team. This will allow Zimbabwe players to play, even those in exile, rather than have them miss out on a lucrative opportunity?

    A side with Murray Goodwin, Sean Ervine, Talinda Taibu et al. is also going to be more competative than than a third associate.

    It may also give something for Zimbabwen's exiled here to cheer about.

  • Comment number 14.

    The governmet's hypocracy is astounding.

  • Comment number 15.

    zimbabwe cricket should be banned from i c c not only due to political reasons but due to cricketing reasons and being a test nation there is no domestic cricket being played hence last season had to play in the south africa and that also even in the one day the standard was very poor. the standard of league cricket is also very poor school boys are playing league cricket .the only reason they suspended thmselves at the last meeting from test and remain in the one day was because of the world cup from which z c recieved 11m dollars. this money has not gone into the devolopment of the game. india must make cricketing decisions.they must realise even if their is a new board they will get the vote.

  • Comment number 16.

    Banning Zimbabwe will achieve nothing, why people are talking to ban the country only in Cricket?? Either Zimbabwe should be banned in all sports or it shouldnt be banned in any sports at all, Why FIFA is not banning Zimbabwe?? Obviously UK government has some peoblem with Zimbabwe ... but politics and sports shoudnt get mixed up...

  • Comment number 17.

    I completely agree with all the correspondents who say that Zimbabwe should be barred from international cricket while the current political situation exists. To call it a "political" situation is pretty naive, while Zimbabwe's current rulers are running roughshod over the most elemental human rights, killing and maiming anyone they suspect of opposing them. This is something never before seen in a member country of the ICC. It may not last much longer and when it is over, Zimbabwe should be welcomed with open arms. To make comparisons with Pakistan, whose government has not been particularly democratic for a long time, is sickening special pleading. There is no comparison.

    The latest ICC announcement, that the forfeit of the Oval test against Pakistan a couple of years ago has been overruled, sets a very dangerous precedent, as you, Aggers said a few days ago. It stinks of the kind of political manoeuvring usually associated with the United Nations assemblies. If the ICC is no longer able to take decisions on purely cricketing grounds, then something is seriously wrong and the administration of the world's greatest game at the highest level is in very bad hands.

    As usually happens, apparently "political" decisions are probably being taken on commercial grounds. There can be nothing worse for all of us that love the game. The future looks bleak. It is imposible to disassociate the decision on Zimbabwe from that on the Oval test. "Something is wrong in the State of Denmark" and the sooner the ICC admits that and starts to put its house in order, the better.

  • Comment number 18.

    I now see that I was completely wrong about the ICC and their efforts to remedy the real problems in international cricket. They have taken a long-awaited stand on the question of "rolling substitutions", whatever they are, and comfort breaks. "Por favor!", as we say where I live.

    This is utterly PATHETIC, something that can be understood by cricket fans anywhere in the world. If that is the best they can do, at a time ....

    I can't be bothered to complete the sentence.

  • Comment number 19.

    I often wonder if Aggers or anyone else, aoart from we bloggers, ever read the comments that people like me and many others often take a lot of time to write. We don't do it just to fill up the time before going to bed. We are genuinely concerned about or at least very interested in the fortunes of English cricket. Anyone who sets up a blog should normally listen to what people think and, at least, occasionally reply. That is what blogs are for.

  • Comment number 20.

    The ICC has just taken one of the most controversial decisions in their history - to change the result of a test from two years ago.

    Aggers, you initially broke the story for the BBC and remarked that it opened a "can of worms". Now that the decision is confirmed your comments have completely disappeared from the BBC's site and the report was quickly relegated to a minor headline without a single critical word from any commentator. There has been a furious debate on 606, but silence from the experts.

    Is there some sort of censorship going on?

    No matter how good the moral grounds might be, surely any sports team that refuses to play expects to forfeit the match. An obvious example was England's refusal to play Zimbabwe during the World Cup after threats were made to the lives of players and their families. The ICC awarded the match to Zimbabwe. Consistency?

    Please encourage the BBC to engage in a debate on this important issue...
    ... or perhaps at least you would be allowed to let us know why not!


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