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|England strongly advised to boycott Zim tour|
Sunday, January 25 2004 18:10 Hrs (IST)
Tim Lamb, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said a letter received on Friday from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was "tantamount to an instruction not to go" ahead with the November trip.
Lamb told BBC Television in London on Sunday, "The government have come off the fence and made it quite clear that they are against us going to Zimbabwe.
"It may have been couched in the coded political language of Whitehall, but for them to say that we ought to consider carefully whether a high profile English tour at this time is consistent with the approach the British government are taking, is probably as close as you will get to an instruction not to tour."
He added that if the ECB could convince the International Cricket Council (ICC) that this was the case then England would have a legitimate excuse for not touring Zimbabwe under the world governing body's own rules and thus escape any possible financial penalty.
"We'll have to argue that in a Western, representative democracy that is tantamount to an instruction not to go," Lamb said.
"There are two reasons why you can be excused touring. One is if there are legitimate safety and security concerns. The other is if you get an explicit instruction not to go from your government."
Lamb, who added that he would be speaking to England captain Michael Vaughan later on Sunday about the issue, admitted the ECB's stance had not gone down well with the rest of the International cricket community.
"What plays well at home with the domestic audience doesn't necessarily do the same internationally.
"We do have obligations internationally, we are signatories to the future tours programme which is a bi-lateral system of tours but we are equally well aware of pressures back home."
Lamb accepted that an England withdrawal could end with the ECB being forced to pay compensation to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).
And he added that it could have knock-on effects for the ICC Champions Trophy One-day event which is being staged in England in October.
England promised to tour Zimbabwe in exchange for the Zimbabweans visiting England in 2003. That tour had been in doubt after England pulled out of a World Cup match in Harare in February.
The ECB had set themselves a deadline of Thursday to decide whether they will go ahead with the tour or bow to pressure to pull out because of international concerns over the regime of President Robert Mugabe.
But in the light of a report published by senior ECB official Des Wilson earlier this week concluding that England would be justified in withdrawing from the tour on moral grounds, the ECB announced it would not be making a final decision until a special meeting in February.
ECB pins its hope on British Govt