Indians may have no one to play against

Published: Monday, June 27, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Bangalore:India's cricketers began pre-season training under new coach Greg Chappell despite growing uncertainity over their first two engagements in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

The Indians are scheduled to tour Sri Lanka in late July for a One-day series also featuring the West Indies before joining New Zealand and hosts Zimbabwe for another Limited Overs showdown in August-September.

Both events are, however, mired in controversy. A contracts dispute threatens the West Indies' trip to Sri Lanka, while the New Zealand government wants its team to boycott Zimbabwe in protest against the Robert Mugabe regime.

Unless both issues are settled amicably, the Indians may have no one to play against.

All eyes are focused on London where the sport's admninistrators have gathered for the annual meetings of the International Cricket Council (ICC) which end on Tuesday.

"The chiefs are in England. Hopefully they will solve the problem," an Indian official said on Monday.

The West Indies, who are scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka next week for two Test matches preceding the One-dayers, are struggling to assemble a team due to a sponsorship tussle between the players and their cricket Board.

Only three of the 13 selected players -- Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Darren Powell and rookie wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin - have signed tour contracts with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

With no solution in sight, WICB chief executive Roger Brathwaite warned in a statement that the deadlock could "potentially delay or cancel the tour at a time when all arrangements were already in place".

The WICB, which could face heavy fines if it decides to call off the tour, is planning to ask players from its 'A' team, which is currently touring Sri Lanka, to sign up for the senior team.

The Sri Lankans are, however, unlikely to agree to a second-string West Indian team playing the Test and One-day matches.

Batting superstar Brian Lara has already withdrawn from the One-day series in a bid to prolong his Test career.

New Zealand's tour of Zimbabwe in August was on track till the government stepped in with calls to boycott the trip.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said last week its players had unanimously agreed to embark on the five-week tour after an independent security report gave the all clear.

But threats by New Zealand's foreign minister Phil Goff last week to deny visas to the Zimbabwean cricketers on their return trip to New Zealand in December could invite a backlash from the Mugabe government.

On Sunday, Goff said he plans to enlist British and Australian support to get the ICC to ban Zimbabwe before August.

"The ICC is not considering its responsibilities of a situation where human rights abuses are not simply bad and ongoing but actually have reached an extreme point," he said.

New Zealand would make an approach to the ICC, asking it to waive the fine for forfeiting tours in situations where there were extreme human rights abuses, he said.

India, which enjoys good diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe and has never declined to visit the troubled African nation, is also scheduled to play two Test matches there after the One-dayers.

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