London: Zimbabwe's chances of retaining the six matches it is to host in next year's cricket World Cup are to come under scrutiny in November when a delegation from the International Cricket Council (ICC) is to tour the country to see how safe the situation is.
According to Thursday's 'Daily Mail' both ICC supremo Malcolm Gray and chief executive Malcolm Speed believe the games should be played in Zimbabwe, despite the acceleration in President Robert Mugabe's expulsion of white farmers from their land. However they admitted they would be powerless to enforce that if individual governments said they would not allow their team to play there. "We believe cricket should be played whenever an invitation has been extended," Gray said.
"Providing the cricketing conditions at each ground, the finance and the security of the players are all safeguarded. But it is not up to the ICC and cricket administrators to make political judgements. "It is up to individual governments whether they wish to impose sanctions," added the Australian. Zimbabwe is to play Namibia, whose President Sam Nujoma was as equally as strident as Mugabe in his criticism of British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the recent Earth Summit, India, Australia, Holland and Pakistan.
However it is their other first round opponents England that may represent the likeliest switch of venue as, though they came through a five match One- day series unharmed last year, Mugabe has upped the anti-British rhetoric since then. While the 'Mail' claims that there is a contingency plan to switch the England clash to the South African town of Potchefstroom the 'Daily Telegraph' believes that would result in the Zimbabweans pulling out of their tour of England next year.
"This matter was informally discussed (at the ICC talks in Dubai last week)," an ICC source told the 'Telegraph'. "Tim Lamb (chief executive of English cricket) was not happy about it but as a result of this he sounded out countries who might come to England instead of Zimbabwe," he added.