Chingoka exudes confidence on England tour

Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2004, 7:02 [IST]
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London:Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman Peter Chingoka said he was very confident England's planned October tour would go ahead as scheduled following a meeting with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) at Lord's on Tuesday.

"Today was an important opportunity for the ZCU to communicate directly to the people who will make a final decision on the tour," said Chingoka afterwards.

"International cricket relies heavily on the goodwill that exists between Boards in maintaining the integrity of the International Cricket Council (ICC) future tours programme.

"Zimbabwe showed that faith by visiting the UK last summer and we are confident that England will reciprocate by confirming its tour."

While Chingoka and fellow ZCU Board member Ozias Bvute were meeting with their English counterparts, a Zimbabwe side without several first-choice players were going down to a narrow 12-run defeat against Sri Lanka in the first One-day International in Bulawayo.

Fifteen white players were not considered for selection following a dispute with the ZCU sparked by former captain Heath Streak's unhappiness with the composition of the selection panel.

Prior to the player dispute, England had come under pressure from the British Government to cancel the tour in protest at the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

The ECB previously hinted at withdrawal for "moral" reasons.

But under International Cricket Council (ICC) rules, England risk a suspension from all international matches and potentially crippling losses if they do withdraw on anything other than safety grounds.

That was the reason they gave for withdrawing from a match at last year's World Cup in Harare when, after months of wrangling, the team under then captain Nasser Hussain pulled out at the eleventh hour.

And after the meeting Chingoka, who was due to have talks with ICC officials in London on Tuesday and Wednesday, said that he hoped England would select their strongest side.

"The ECB told us they had never taken a decision not to tour. We are playing Test matches against England. We will play against the team England pick.

"But it would be an injustice if they were not to select their best team," added Chingoka at his London hotel.

Tuesday's meeting will not lead to a definitive decision on the tour's future as ECB officials are due to have talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Culture Minister Tessa Jowell on May 4.

Even then a clear ruling may not be forthcoming. Apart from safety and security the only other approved ICC reason for not touring is if a Government issues a direct banning order preventing its national side from visiting another country.

However, this is a move the British Government has so far shied away from and Chingoka said he did not expect any "excuses" to be made on behalf of the England cricket team.

"I don't hear an excuse to get out from 300 companies, from British Airways, from Rio Tinto, the British mining company," Chingoka explained.

"The World Cup, I want to draw a line under that. I didn't agree with the English analysis of the situation then.

"Since then West Indies have been (to Zimbabwe), Bangladesh have been, and Sri Lanka are there as we speak," added Chingoka in response to questions over whether it would be safe for England to visit.

Turning to the player dispute, Chingoka insisted there was no political interference from Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in ZCU affairs.

And he denied what he said was a "mischievous" racist agenda which claimed the ZCU were intent on driving white players out of the game.

"Just look at our Board. There are four black Africans, four Asians and four whites."

And he added: "The door remains open to the players and their representatives to talk to the Union in an attempt to find a solution to the very serious problems we are currently facing."

He pointed to the fact that the Board had agreed to reduce the selection panel from six to four selectors including former national player Richie Kaschula and Under-19 coach Walter Chawaguta as proof of the ZCU's good faith.

And he said that the ZCU would be prepared to pay 100 percent of the running costs of the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers Association for a year and 50 percent in subsequent years.

Meanwhile ECB corporate affairs director John Read said England stood to lose 50 million pounds if they did not tour.

"Ninety per cent of our revenue comes from the international game, and 90 percent is about 50 million.

"That would drastically affect all parts and levels of the game from the Test team down to the grass roots."

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