Hearing farce casts new shadow over tour of Zimbabwe

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The Independent Online

England's tour of Zimbabwe next month is in doubt once more. This follows the abandonment in Harare of the International Cricket Council hearing into allegations of racism in Zimbabwean cricket.

England's tour of Zimbabwe next month is in doubt once more. This follows the abandonment in Harare of the International Cricket Council hearing into allegations of racism in Zimbabwean cricket.

The two adjudicators, Goolam Vahanvati, India's Solicitor General and South African High Court Judge Steven Majiedt called off the hearing because neither party - the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and the 15 'rebel' white players - could agree who should and should not be present during the submission of certain evidence.

Vahanvati and Majiedt will still consider written submissions before producing a report for the ICC to consider at their board meeting in Karachi on 16-17 October.

If the ZCU were to be found guilty of racism the ICC could suspend Zimbabwe from all international cricket, which would settle the question of England's tour instantly.

But the Federation of International Cricket Associations (FICA), the body that represents professional cricketers' associations around the world, could take action anyway and call on all its members to boycott cricket in Zimbabwe until the country's cricketing house has been put in order.

But last night no one was predicting anything. Richard Bevan, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers Asoociation and that body's representative on FICA, said: "We cannot second guess the report's findings. We must wait until it is made public at the ICC board meeting later this month.

"At that point the players will review their position. But until then there is no point in speculating."

The ICC has adopted a similar 'wait and see' stance, while the England and Wales Cricket Board said the matter was an ICC issue. But there is no doubt at all about the racism inquiry, which is off. It had been expected to run for three days, but at the start of day two yesterday the adjudicators closed proceedings because of a failure to reach an agreement on whether or not three ZCU board members should be present during the player's submission of evidence.

Vahanvati and Majiedt were scathing in their criticism of the outcome. Majiedt said: "This outcome is obviously not what would be desired, but has been imposed upon us by the positions adopted by both parties whose attitudes reflect what has brought about these problems."

"We find ourselves in an untenable position at this stage of the proceedings. If we accede to an exclusion of the three ZCU directors, the ZCU will withdraw from these proceedings. If, on the other hand, we decline the request for their exclusion, the players will withdraw. It is unacceptable to proceed in this fashion." So, match abandoned. And all eyes will be on Karachi on 16 October when the seals on the report are broken and the findings revealed.

* The England batsman Mark Butcher has been appointed as the new captain of Surrey.

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