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|Zim tour: ECB pins its hope on British Government|
Friday, January 23 2004 18:17 Hrs (IST)
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have set themselves a deadline of next Thursday to decide whether they will go ahead with the November tour or bow to pressure to pull out because of international concerns over the regime of President Robert Mugabe.
A report published by a senior ECB official earlier this week concluded that England would be justified withdrawing from the tour on moral grounds.
But that brought an angry reaction from the game's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), who have warned that England could face legal action and possible compensation payments if they pull out on political grounds.
The ICC maintains that only security concerns can be used to justify the cancellation of tours.
There is however the precedent set by India, who have in recent years been unable to tour Pakistan because of orders from their Government.
A similar directive from the British Government is seen as unlikley but ECB officials are hopeful that the ICC will not take any action if they can show that the British Government has issued a strong recommendation against a tour.
A letter outlining the Government's position was sent to the ECB on Thursday, although its precise contents have not yet been made public.
England promised to tour Zimbabwe in exchange for the Zimbabweans visiting to England in 2003. That tour had been in doubt after England pulled out of a World Cup match in Harare in February.
Eng awaits Foreign Office advice on Zim tour