Cricket: England handed offer of NZ tour

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The Independent Online
WITH the violence in India continuing to threaten England's winter tour, the Test and County Cricket Board yesterday received a tentative offer from New Zealand in the event of Graham Gooch's side finding itself all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Peter McDermott, the chairman of the New Zealand Cricket Board, said that his country could 'probably' accommodate England between 8 January, when Pakistan leave them after a short tour, and the end of February, when Australia are due to arrive.

'As far as I can see, putting together an international programme should not present too many problems,' McDermott said. However, the Kiwis' approach will not entirely be down to a flush of seasonal charity and goodwill. With Test matches there having all the appeal of a trip to the dentist, what McDermott probably means by an international programme is a one-day international programme.

This will not greatly appeal to the TCCB, which, bearing in mind that New Zealand is not a charismatic venue for a cricket tour, and with England having visited as recently as last winter, was probably hoping for a phone call from closer to Johannesburg than Wellington. South Africa may yet emerge as another alternative, although the claim from Lord's yesterday was that England have not sent out feelers to anyone.

If so, it is difficult to imagine why not. The team is scheduled to fly to Delhi in a little under three weeks' time, and the situation in India does not appear to be stabilising.

However, the TCCB spokesman, Ken Lawrence, said yesterday that England had 'not yet even thought of going elsewhere. We are still very hopeful of leaving for India on 28 December and we certainly won't panic about the situation at this stage'.

New Zealand was the proposed alternative when England's previous winter tour to India was cancelled in 1988, the host country declining to offer some individual visas on the grounds of South African connections. But that too was eventually scrapped when the Kiwis, albeit citing financial reasons, came under political pressure not to offer sanctuary.

Political sensitivity about South Africa was then so acute, that while England's desperation to find an alternative led to them knocking on virtually every door in world cricket, all the occupants had turned off the lights and were hiding behind the curtains.

Ultimately, England ended up with a blank winter for the only time since 1975-76, but on this occasion, whether it is to be India, New Zealand or South Africa, they will almost certainly be leaving for somewhere shortly after Christmas.

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