British Sports Minister calls for Zimbabwe talks

Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2004, 16:24 [IST]
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London:Britain's Sports Minister Richard Caborn wants to meet with the International Cricket Council (ICC) in a bid to help resolve the cricket crisis in Zimbabwe.

England completed a 4-0 One-day series whitewash of Zimbabwe on Sunday as their controversial trip to the troubled African state passed off without incident.

But, having come under political and public pressure to pull out of the tour in protest at the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, it was only the threat of an ICC fine and suspension that saw England go ahead with the first half of their winter programme.

Even then there were problems, the hold-up in granting entry visas to 13 British journalists delaying England's arrival in Zimbabwe and causing the abandonment of the first match of what should have been a five-game series.

And when they did get to Zimbabwe, England found they were not playing their hosts strongest side with former captain Heath Streak among 15 white players still out in the cold following a row over alleged racial bias in selection earlier this year.

England captain Michael Vaughan made no attempt to hide his anger at being duty-bound to lead the team to Zimbabwe just a year after the side forfeited a World Cup match in Harare on security grounds and Caborn said the tour had been an "unfortunate" episode.

"I think we should set up a dialogue and I would like that dialogue with the ICC as soon as possible so we don't have another Zimbabwe situation," Caborn told BBC radio on Monday.

But he insisted imposing a ban on sports teams, as Britain's main opposition Conservative party said the Government should do in the case of the England tour of Zimbabwe, was unrealistic.

"If the Government say 'don't go' and some decide to go, what do you do? Do you go to Parliament and say 'I want prime legislation so I can take passports off sports people'? Because that is what it would mean.

"I don't want to get to that situation. I think we ought to be able to work out a sensible arrangement with international governing bodies so we don't have the problems of Zimbabwe arising again."

As England headed off for the second half of their winter programme, a Test and One-day series in South Africa, Vaughan said he was "very sad" that Zimbabwe had failed to pick their best side.

Zimbabwe, who were suspended from Test cricket after two crushing defeats at home to Sri Lanka in May, are due to return to the five-day game in January with a series away to fellow strugglers Bangladesh.

But ex-England skipper Alec Stewart insisted they should be exiled from all forms of international cricket until they fielded a full-strength side.

Zimbabwe have not beaten a leading team in a One-day International since back-to-back victories against the West Indies in November 2003, their only wins since against Bangladesh earlier this year.

"They are not good enough to play international cricket. They shouldn't be playing international cricket purely on the fact they are not good enough," Stewart said on Monday.

"What have the England selectors gained from beating Zimbabwe 4-0? They haven't played international level cricket in Zimbabwe.

"I wouldn't have them playing," the former wicketkeeper-batsman added. "They have been flung out of Test cricket for 12 months and that is being looked at again in January. If this is the side they are going to bring back in it shouldn't be allowed."

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