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Thatscricket - News - 'England to call off Zimbabwe cricket tour'

Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2004, 23:05 [IST]
 
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London:England are set to cancel their cricket tour of Zimbabwe "on moral grounds" according to a front-page article in Wednesday's edition of The Times.

It said a report compiled by a senior England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) official formed the basis for the decision, due to be taken at a Board meeting next week, to cancel the October-November tour "on moral rather than security grounds."

This follows concerns about the regime of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe who, as well as being blamed for the African country's food crisis, has also been accused of human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

In December, Mugabe withdrew his country from the Commonwealth after the country's suspension was backed for another year.

ECB corporate affairs chairman Des Wilson's report, already circulated to all 15 full Board members, said, "Can we tour this country knowing what we do about its stance on human rights and the suffering of its people?"

He concluded, "The safety and security of a touring party can in today's circumstances no longer be the only factor in deciding whether or not to proceed with a controversial tour."

Safety and security has been the sole guiding principle of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in deciding whether controversial matches should go ahead.

It was this test they applied at last year's World Cup where in the run-up to their scheduled February 13 match in Harare, the Zimbabwe capital, England came under strong pressure from British politicians to call off the fixture.

England initially said they were prepared to go ahead with the game but, after months of prevarication, they eventually pulled out at the 11th hour.

The ECB said at the time it had received a letter threatening the players' safety. However, World Cup security chiefs insisted it was safe for the match to proceed.

The 2003 Zimbabwe tour of England went ahead after ECB chairman David Morgan told the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) that England would tour Zimbabwe in October.

There have been suggestions that England's scheduled two Test matches and five One-day Internationals in Zimbabwe could be held at neutral venues.

But ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka said in a statement on Wednesday, "In light of the uncertainty that appears to exist in England the ZCU has now written to David Morgan, asking him to urgently confirm the commitment he gave on behalf of the ECB to our Board of directors in Harare last March.

"That commitment was that England would fulfil its scheduled tour to Zimbabwe and those assurances were given to secure Zimbabwes tour of the England last summer," Chingoka said.

"Having honoured our word that we would tour the United Kingdom we naturally expect England to reciprocate by touring Zimbabwe."

The World Cup withdrawal saw the ICC withold 2.3 million pounds (4.2 million dollars, 3.3 million euros) of the ECB's tournament pay-out and played a major role in the team's elimination at the first stage.

But as Test tours are bilateral agreements between the countries involved England will not suffer a similar penalty if they pull out now.

They may even save money. One of English cricket's major sponsors, communications firm Vodafone, has warned it may withdraw its 3 million pounds (5.4 million dollars, 4.3 million euros) per year backing if the Zimbabwe tour goes ahead.

The ICC have repeatedy said the changing nature of governmental regimes in some of the sport's major nations would throw world cricket into chaos if cancellation for political or moral, rather than safety, reasons became accepted practice.

Bangladesh in February, Sri Lanka in April and Australia in May and June are all set to tour Zimbabwe before England.

Zimbabwe, currently on tour in Australia, are due in England in September for the ICC's Champions Trophy One-day tournament.

Australia Prime Minister John Howard was a leading advocate of the extension to Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth which sparked its decision to quit the organisation.

Cricket Australia (CA) is due to send a delegation to Zimbabwe in March to assess the situation.

Extras
ECB to review Zimbabwe tour
afp.com

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