Harare (Zimbabwe): International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed warned on Saturday that countries participating in next year's World Cup would have to abide by its decision as to whether Zimbabwe will be maintained as a venue. Speed was speaking after a 15-man group left Harare following four days of interviews with ministers, police authorities, mayors, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and security organisations as well as examining the grounds to be used.
The ICC chief said that it could not force any country to play where it did not want to but warned that those who went against the majority opinion and break their agreements "will have consequences to meet". The cricket World Cup from February 8 to March 23 is being played primarily in South Africa but also in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Only Zimbabwe has come under scrutiny. Speed declined to give any indication whether the ICC group believes the host country will meet security needs. But the impression gained by observers here is that Zimbabwe will get the go-ahead from the ICC.
Speed said that his group had not simply spoken to those with a vested interest in the World Cup segment being played in Harare and Bulawayo, though he referred to a "forceful" presentation by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. "I am satisfied that we have sounded out a wide sample of interested parties," he said. The ICC will now prepare a provisional report, to be amended after views taken from the six countries' representatives, then amended where necessary before signature and publication within 10 days. Holland, Namibia, India and Pakistan are not expected to dissent.
But there are doubts about England and Australia. Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has already ordered the cancellation of a tour to Zimbabwe by Australia last April, which placed the issue into the political arena. England's representative on the ICC delegation Tim Lamb has also expressed concern about Zimbabwe's refusal earlier in the week to grant visas to two British journalists, even though they stated they were only interested in the ICC investigation process. Meanwhile as the ICC party left Harare, cricket followers going to the Harare Sports Club to watch Zimbabwe versus Pakistan in a one-day international saw painted on a wall, "jihad against whites".