Chingoka keen on hosting England

Published: Friday, April 2, 2004, 3:07 [IST]
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London:Zimbabwe's senior cricket administrator said he was looking forward to welcoming England if they went ahead with their controversial November tour.

Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman Peter Chingoka's comments came just hours after English cricket chiefs confirmed they would be inviting him and two of his colleagues to a Lord's summit meeting on April 20 to discuss the future of the tour.

As well as Chingoka, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have also invited ZCU legal affairs director Alwyn Pichanick and board member Ozias Bvute to the meeting.

The ECB have come under strong British Government pressure to scrap the tour in protest at the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

But Chingoka insisted that was no justification for an abandonment, telling Sky Sports TV: "We look forward to receiving them (England) warmly in Harare in November. There is no obstacle or legal reason why they can't tour Zimbabwe," he added.

"It is in the interests of international cricket that these tours take place. The Zimbabwe players have a right to be playing against all the teams from across the world and the England players have the right to play in Zimbabwe. Let's make cricket our priority," Chingoka insisted.

Earlier, the ECB said of the summit: "The meeting will allow both Boards to directly, and more fully, discuss the issue of England's scheduled tour to Zimbabwe later this year."

England, Australia and Sri Lanka are scheduled to tour Zimbabwe later this year, but England alone have delayed confirming their visit.

Crucially, however, the British Government has stopped short of formally ordering the ECB not to send a team.

Under International Cricket Council (ICC) rules, barring a Government ban, the only other way for the ECB to withdraw without paying compensation is on security grounds.

And following new sanctions agreed at an ICC board meeting in Auckland earlier this month, England risk a two million dollar fine if they fail to tour Zimbabwe.

Refusing to tour could also have the knock-on effect of seeing this September ICC's Champions Trophy One-day tournament, due to take place in England, boycotted by leading nations or moved elsewhere in order to prevent such a protest.

However, ICC chiefs have repeatedly stressed the need to separate the two issues and Chingoka said: "I don't think it's for me, at this time, to get into what might happen with the Champions Trophy. It's simply the tour that is scheduled to take place in November that we will be discussing."

England's tour has been in doubt ever since, after months of wrangling, they eventually pulled out at the 11th hour of what should have been their opening match in Harare at last year's World Cup, a decision that contributed to their failure to reach the knockout stages.

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