Cricket team faces isolation

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe faces suspension from international cricket because of the worsening political turmoil, it emerged yesterday. After years of soul searching and political posturing, Zimbabwe's status will be questioned for the first time next week by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The ICC have put Zimbabwe on the agenda of an executive board meeting in Dubai next Wednesday. The body has always adopted the stance that it does not involve itself in politics. The discussion has been proposed by the outgoing president, Ray Mali, a South African hitherto supportive of Zimbabwe, so the inference is clear. It was accompanied by the announcement that Cricket South Africa have abandoned all bilateral agreements with Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's planned cricketing tour of England next year is almost certain to be called off after an unprecedented intervention by Gordon Brown.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Mr Brown would regard a visit by Zimbabwe as well as their participation in the World Twenty20 tournament after as "unwelcome".

International suspension is not a foregone conclusion because Zimbabwe has had many friends round the ICC board's table. India has shown no inclination to criticise it. But South Africa's apparent change of heart seems to possess overwhelming substance in determining ICC direction.

Zimbabwe, of their own volition, have not played Test cricket for three years because their best players have fled the country.