ICC says Zimbabwe racism hearing on course

Published: Monday, September 20, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Birmingham:The International Cricket Council (ICC) insisted it had no plans to delay the hearing into racism allegations that have torn apart Zimbabwe cricket after reports from the troubled African state suggested proceedings could be delayed by up to two weeks.

"The hearing is due to start on September 29. We have received no requests for a delay," ICC spokesman Brendan McClements told AFP in Birmingham on Sunday.

Almost six months ago former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak complained complained to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) that the national selectors, some of whom were inexperienced in first class cricket, chose black players ahead of whites who, he claimed, were superior cricketers.

He was sacked, whereupon his colleagues demanded reinstatement and went on strike when this was refused. This ultimately led to 15 senior white players, including Streak, being axed from their side amidst claims and counter-claims of racism.

After heavy defeats at home to Sri Lanka in May, the ICC suspended Zimbabwe from Test cricket for the rest of 2004 while it carried out an inquiry.

In August the ICC appointed India's solicitor general Goolam Vahanvati and a senior South African High Court judge Steven Majiedt to conduct a two-day hearing in Harare.

The duo's report is due to be considered at the ICC's next board meeting in October in Lahore.

"Mr Vahanvati and Judge Majiedt are both eminent gentlemen who have already given up their time to carry out this inquiry. They have other commitments," said McClements as he emphasised the unlikelihood of a delay.

The ZCU have appointed a lawyer to present their accusations and defence, believed to be leading criminal defence specialist Chris Andersen and the players feel they must do the same.

They have asked another leading lawyer, Adrian de Bourbon, to represent them but do not have the funds to brief him, a player spokesman who does not wish to be named told AFP in Harare on Saturday.

They have also had help from the ICC with legal costs and the travel expenses of several former Zimbabwe players, including Streak, Andy Blignaut and Grant Flower. The spokesman complained that the ICC, in particular chief executive Malcolm Speed, "is being tardy about helping us."

But senior ICC officials are known to be unhappy at the players' comments after allocating 10,000 pounds to both the players and the ZCU to cover their legal costs.

The ICC asked the players for a budget to detail their additional legal expenses but the Lord's-based governing body had still not received such a document Sunday.

Earlier in the day, England fast bowler Stephen Harmison announced his withdrawal from the team's five One-day International tour of Zimbabwe on moral and sporting grounds.

Despite the Test match ban, Zimbabwe are still being allowed to play One-day Internationals.

They recently went down to 152-run and four-wicket defeats against England and Sri Lanka respectively, at this month's ICC Champions Trophy tournament in England.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to resume Test cricket away to fellow minnows Bangladesh in January although an unfavourable report from Vahanvati and Majiedt could jeopardise their return to the five-day game.

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