England to decide after a meeting with ICC

Published: Friday, January 30, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England have delayed for a second time a decision on whether to go ahead with their tour of Zimbabwe until after a March meeting with world cricket's governing body.

Following a meeting of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) management Board in London on Thursday a statement was issued saying no decision on the November tour would be taken before the March 9-10 meeting in Auckland, New Zealand of the International Cricket Council (ICC) executive Board.

The ECB statement said it had chosen to "respond positively" to a formal request from ICC president Ehsan Mani not to take a final decision until meeting with world cricket chiefs.

Thursday's talks were to have seen the ECB make that final decision. But, on Monday, the ECB said it was delaying a decision on whether to proceed with the tour until February.

Responding to the ECB announcement Mani, from Pakistan, said, "During our meeting earlier this week I suggested to David Morgan (ECB chairman) that an appropriate forum for this issue would be the ICC executive Board meeting in March."

"I am pleased that the ECB Board has now accepted this suggestion and welcome this decision," added Mani who earlier this week told The Times he expected the tour to be cancelled.

The British Government has strongly advised the ECB to call off the tour in protest at the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

Crucially however, the Government has stopped short of ordering the ECB to cancel the tour in the way that India banned bilateral tours of Pakistan for over a decade.

Under ICC rules, barring a Goverment ban the only other grounds on which the ECB could withdraw without paying compensation is for security reasons.

However, a report by ECB official Des Wilson published last week said moral concerns could form the basis for a withdrawal.

Meanwhile Thursday's ECB statement indicated it had still not given up hope of changing the ICC's hardline stance.

It said the ICC meeting offered an "opportunity to explore with all interested parties, all of the prevailing circumstances surrounding the planned tour, in order to establish whether they constitute an exceptional case."

England agreed in March to tour Zimbabwe in return for Zimbabwe touring England in 2003, having controversially withdrawn from a World Cup match in Harare in February last year.

However, the prospect of an England withdrawal prompted an angry response from Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman Peter Chingoka who accused Morgan of going back on his word. Chingoka also warned England's 18 cash-strapped Counties they could be faced with a multi-million pounds compensation bill if the tour did not go ahead as planned.

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