Johannesburg: The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Monday said that England will boycott its World Cup opener against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13. England has repeatedly cited security fears as a reason for delaying their decision during months of agonising.
ICC president Malcolm Gray, responding to the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) call for further safety information, wrote, in a letter to ECB chief executive Tim Lamb, "ICC Development International note that you are giving us formal notice that you are unable to fulfil the scheduled fixture in Harare on Thursday the 13th of February." However, in a counter statement ECB spokesman Andrew Walpole told reporters in Cape Town, "We have not said we are refusing to go to Zimbabwe.
We have asked the ICC to move the match to a safe location outside of Zimbabwe on grounds of safety and security." But under World Cup rules, England's final attempt at moving the fixture failed on Friday when tournament commissioner Justice Albie Sachs turned down the ECB's request. England now faces being docked four points for refusing to play the match and a fine from the ICC for breaking its contractual commitment to go ahead with the game.
And Zimbabwe, due in England in May, could add to England's financial problems by cancelling their tour in retaliation. Zimbabwe skipper Heath Streak said he was disappointed with the England decision. "We were keen to play all of our games here. We are sorry England has decided not to come here and are sorry it has come to this. But at least it will take some of the pressure of us."
| Copyright AFP 2001 |