London: English cricket authorities are due to meet here at Lord's later on Tuesday to decide whether the team's controversial World Cup opening match against Zimbabwe in Harare next month should go ahead. British ministers from Premier Tony Blair down want the fixture boycotted in protest at the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
Nevertheless, the 15-member management board of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is expected to authorise the side's participation. The ECB expects to pay up to one million Pounds ($ 1.6 million) compensation to International Cricket Council (ICC) in the event of a boycott. The ICC also appeared to be preparing a way out of the six World Cup matches scheduled to take place in Zimbabwe. It announced a new committee would monitor the situation, having made its decision to go ahead with the Zimbabwe games after sending an inspection team there in November.
The ICC has always maintained that the only for safety and security reasons would matches in Zimbabwe be abandoned. And the ICC has told teams they will be docked World Cup points as well as face compensation claims if they withdraw from Zimbabwe on political grounds. The Australian government has also urged a boycott by the Australian team, although it has said such a protest should be "one out all out" basis.
India, Pakistan, Namibia and the Netherlands, the other teams due to play in Zimbabwe, have said they are willing to play there, provoking fears of a split in world cricket in the event of any boycott. The bulk of the 54 World Cup matches in the February 8 to March 23 tournament are due to take place in South Africa. And it could also host the fixtures scheduled for Zimbabwe if the matches in Harare and Bulawayo were cancelled.