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 Zimbabwe then it had little option but to go ahead with its match in Harare on February 13. However, he told reporters they could reverse the decision if there were more riots in Zimbabwe.
"If there is a decoration in the security situation the decision to play in Zimbabwe could be reviewed," he said after meeting government ministers. "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." Lamb said England would face a multi-million pound legal claim if they did not go ahead with their 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." The ECB is also worried by the financial implications of Zimbabwe withdrawing from their two Test tour of England in the next northern summer in retaliation against a World Cup boycott. That, according to some estimates, could cost the ECB as much as 10 million Pounds ($ 16 million).
In November, the International Cricket Council (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. ECB spokesman John Read later said that they hoped to call a meeting of the 15- member management board next week.
He added that unless there was a change in ICC policy, which he said was "unlikely," it would be the management board who had the final say on whether England played in Zimbabwe. Among the members of the Board are former England batsman Dennis Amiss, the chairman of the international teams management advisory committee and the chief executives and chairmen of several English counties.