We have not entirely given up hope: Carlisle

Published: Thursday, July 15, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Zimbabwe's rebel players have not given up hope of representing their country again but only if the "cancer is cleansed" from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU), batsman Stuart Carlisle said in London.

Zimbabwe cricket has been blighted by a dispute that started in April following the sacking of former captain Heath Streak which led to 15 white players in all being barred from representing the troubled African state.

Fast bowler Streak, now at English County Warwickshire, having accused the ZCU of making some team choices based on race rather than merit was then dismissed immediately.

The other players, after failing to get Streak reinstated, went on strike. They in turn were sacked and their contracts revoked.

Now 14 of those players -- all-rounder Andy Blignaut was unavailable -- have formed themselves into a team called the Red Lions, currently on a six-game charity tour of England.

They aim to raise money for the Zimbabwean Cricketers Fund and the Zimbabwe Pensioners Fund and were set to play the first match of their tour against celebrity side Lashings at Wimbledon Cricket Club, south London.

Carlisle, captain of the rebel side, said: "It would be difficult to resume a working relationship with the ZCU because they have done so much damage and that's why the solution to the dispute has to be effective.

"Some of the individuals in the ZCU that have helped cause the problems have to be booted out of cricket completely. The cancer must be cleansed. If that happens then I'm sure we can work together.

"Ultimately it's about cricket and there are a lot of young white and black players who are in limbo at the moment. It's the sport that is suffering."

Streak, who despite his Warwickshire commitments will play for the Red Lions, said: "It's important for us to stay together and continue playing cricket as a team.

"Not all the guys have had employment opportunities within cricket - I'm with Warwickshire but others are less fortunate."

Chris Venturas, the rebels' legal representative, is due to meet International Cricket Council (ICC) officials on Friday and Streak was hopeful the global governing body could broker a solution.

But he admitted any deal was unlikely to see the rebels reinstated before September's Champions Trophy One-day tournament in England.

"It's a tough one for the ICC. But they are the governing body and I do hope they can act in the interest of the players," Streak said.

"Starting the process will take longer than the process itself. We'd be hard pushed to get any change to the make-up of the Zimbabwe national team before the ICC Champions Trophy in September.

"We're hoping that by the beginning of our summer we are closer to a resolution and we can get back to having an opportunity to play in Zimbabwe as citizens of our country, without prejudice over what race we are."

Former Zimbabwe pace bowler Henry Olonga was due to play for Lashings.

Olonga, the first black player to represent Zimbabwe, effectively ended his international career when at last year's World Cup he and white teammate Andy Flower staged a black armband protest mourning "the death of democracy" in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe.

Earlier this month the ICC suspended Zimbabwe's Tests for the rest of the year following heavy defeats against Sri Lanka.

However their One-day Internationals remained intact and England are due to play five such games in Zimbabwe in November.

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