On the Front Foot: Welcome back Zimbabwe, but don't come anywhere near us

  • @stephenbrenkley

To many observers it was rather heartening to note that Zimbabwe have begun playing Test cricket again.

They are involved in their first match for almost six years. Zimbabwe believe they have done their penance and the International Cricket Council were pleased with their return, while indicating that their revamped first-class structure "needs to be nurtured and maintained". England are having nothing to do with the return. The Future Tours Programme covering the years 2012-20 reveals England intend to play precisely no matches of any sort against Zimbabwe. All other countries are at least paying lip service; India and Australia intend to visit Zimbabwe twice each. Political considerations are involved as much as cricketing ones and several Zimbabwean cricket officials, notably the chairman Peter Chingoka, are banned from entering Britain. The cold shoulder demonstrates that England are now willing to take a stand. Unless the ICC change their FTP agreement, they will presumably have to pay compensation to Zimbabwe of at least $750,000 (£460,000) to cover the Tests and one-dayers of which they would be deprived. Gone too, it seems, are the days when England welcomed one and all to these shores to play cricket. Bangladesh will not be invited here for the next eight years. England have agreed to go there in 2016 but their paths will not cross otherwise. Meanwhile between 2013 and 2018 there are five Ashes series.

The wolf is at the door for ICC

The statement heading was bland and uncontroversial: "Lord Woolf to chair Independent Governance Review of ICC." What it means is that the Rt Hon Lord Woolf of Barnes is charged with making the ICC a proper governing body. That is, an organisation which can run the sport in a neutral, independent fashion without being at the beck and call of the self-interest which so frequently makes a mockery of their decisions. Since he is a former Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls who has been involved in some of the most high-profile of all cases (Bulger, Dando, Blood etc), sorting out the ICC should be a doddle. Maybe. His first task will be to devise a system for electing a president. After that he has to try to clarify the roles of the ICC and their committees, not least to find a way in which the wishes of the committees are not automatically diluted or reversed by the full board. The ICC sound as though they mean business by appointing Woolf, who will present initial findings at the October board meeting. On past record, of course, it is entirely possible that Woolf provides an eminently sensible, workable system which favours no country but protects all, only then to have it thrown out. If so, we might as well all take up residence in the Indian Premier League.

Continue the good work

Continuity has never had it so good. England have gone a record 14 Test matches without a debutant, the last being Ajmal Shahzad at Old Trafford in 2010. The previous longest streak was between June 1974 and July 1975. David Lloyd appeared against India and another 12 matches were played before the next debutant. If whoever follows Shahzad (who has played only one match so far) has a similar career to the chap who followed Lloyd the wait will have been worth it. He began with a pair but what a career Graham Gooch eventually had.

Carberry's coming up roses

Excellent for Michael Carberry. He made 300 not out for Hampshire on Friday and shared a stand of 523 with Neil McKenzie, the ninth highest of all time and a record for the third wicket in England. It was Carberry's third match after nine months out with blood clots on his lungs. Hampshire may be thankful not to attract the attention of the pitch inspectors. After the last cracking draw at the Rose Bowl they were docked eight points because the pitch was judged too spin-friendly. This time there were scores of 532, 599 for 3, 40 for 0, no use to any bowler, and nobody has said a dicky bird.