London: Britain's International Development Minister on Saturday launched a scathing attack on world cricket chiefs over their decision to allow Zimbabwe to host matches during next year's World Cup.
Clare Short described the decision as 'deplorable and shocking' and hinted she would be trying to reverse current government policy on the issue, which is that the decision should be left to cricket officials. British MPs have led calls for a boycott of Zimbabwe in protest over President Robert Mugabe's alleged abuses of human rights and the electoral process and the forcible eviction of white farmers from their land.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) ruled earlier this month there was no security or other reason for not allowing the six matches scheduled for Zimbabwe to go ahead. England is due to play one match in Harare. "I think it is deplorable and shocking," Short told 'BBC Radio'. "An election has been stolen and people are being starved because they dared to vote freely. Our team plans to go to Zimbabwe and play as though all is normal." A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair reiterated that there had been no change in policy.
The government has urged the ICC to 'reflect' on its decision but made it clear it will not order English cricketers not to go to Zimbabwe. Short however indicated that she would be pushing for a tougher stance in the run up to the World Cup, which runs from February 8 to March 23. "I gather that the position is that the team must decide for themselves," she said.
"I will get in touch with Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell, who is the appropriate minister. I think they should not go. It is like pretending everything is okay in Zimbabwe and it is not." Most World Cup matches will be played in South Africa but Kenya will also host two along with the six set to take place in Zimbabwe.