London: English cricket officials appeared set on Thursday to defy the British government and go ahead with their World Cup game in Zimbabwe.
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tim Lamb said as the government refused to pay compensation if England boycotted its World Cup match in Zimbabwe then it had little option but to go ahead with its match in Harare on February 13. However, he told reporters that ECB could reverse the decision if there were more riots in Zimbabwe. "If there is a deterioration in the security situation the decision to play in Zimbabwe could be reviewed," he said after meeting government officials.
"We need to have a fairly urgent meeting of the management board. It will be up to them to decide where we go from here." British premier Tony Blair has called on England to pull out of its match but sports secretary Tessa Jowell told the ECB on Thursday the government would pay no cash compensation if England boycotted its match in Zimbabwe. Lamb said England would face a multi-million Pound legal claim if it did not go ahead with its game. "We've been put in a very difficult situation," he said.
"We find this a very inequitable situation. Cricket is being asked to make a stand in the national interest. We have signed legal contracts ... and if we breach those contracts that could have a severe detrimental effect to the fabric of the game (in England). "My job is to look after the interests of cricket. We could render ourselves liable to unlimited damages. "We are disappointed certainly at this initial meeting that no compensation will be paid," he said. "We may ask for another meeting." Jowell called on the ECB to change its mind but added, "If they decide to go, the government has no powers to stop them."
In November, the ICC sent an inspection team to Zimbabwe to assess its safety and security status. Following the publication of the team's report last month, the ICC decided to press ahead with the Zimbabwe matches although it reserved the right to pull out if the situation "deteriorated". But as it stands at the moment, teams will be docked World Cup points if they fail to play in Zimbabwe whose President Robert Mugabe has been lambasted for his treatment of white farmers and opposition politicians.