Wrangle over banning Zimbabwe reaches deadlock
Friday 04 July 2008
After two long and fractious days, Zimbabwe were still hanging on to their place at cricket's high table last night. The International Cricket Council failed again to resolve the issue of their continued presence and the world game remains in limbo.
If signs were to be gleaned they were that the last-ditch attempt to reach some form of agreement today will go England's way, at least to a limited extent. The chances of achieving any formal suspension have been significantly reduced, but England have refused to budge an inch on their refusal to allow Zimbabwe to compete in the World Twenty20 in England next summer.
India, meanwhile, moved an equal distance in declining to countenance Zimbabwe's non-participation. There have undoubtedly been shifts of position and the firm ground taken by Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, might have influenced opinion.
All matches in the competition have already sold out – except for the two in which Zimbabwe are scheduled to play – which alone would make it difficult to switch the tournament elsewhere. The ICC will have to move it if England refuse to allow Zimbabwe in without having the necessary support from other nations. But the ticket revenue of some £15m – 90 per cent of which goes to the ICC for distribution to its members – makes a powerful bargaining tool.
Asked if he thought the World Twenty20 would be staged in England, however, David Richardson, the ICC's acting chief executive, replied simply: "Yes." Later he added, perhaps tellingly, perhaps not: "I think it would be sad if we didn't have any of our full members competing, particularly England."
It was clear from the tightness of their lips that ICC delegates were aware of the disaster facing the game and the piecing together of snippets of information suggested Zimbabwe recognised they were in trouble at last. The chairman of their cricket board, Peter Chingoka, was overheard outside the conference room to say: "We're in a difficult situation."
Shortly after, Chingoka and his entourage of lawyers, who had been remarkably bullish the previous day, visited India's delegation in their hotel. India seemingly asked Zimbabwe to consider withdrawing voluntarily from the World Twenty20 while retaining all the membership and financial rights. That might seem a woeful kind of compromise, but it was the best the ECB can hope for and it was rejected simply because Zimbabwe refuse to bow the knee in any way to England. Although there was no official version of how the countries are splitting, it is probable that five are on England's side, pretty astonishing in itself. If Australia and New Zealand are the usual suspects, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the distinctly unusual ones. But a 7-3 vote, or two thirds, is necessary for resolutions to be carried and minds are in any case believed to be changing regularly.
Were England's point to be won it may weaken India's position as the game's powerbrokers. If they lose – and they are prepared to do so rather than alter their stance – the consequences are unthinkable.
In the light of this, the news that the ICC is seeking to establish a formal world Test championship, primarily to save that form of the game, seems faintly ludicrous. But Australia have been asked to expand on their proposal. This presumes that any country is by then willing to play against another country.
The were two decisions. Tied matches in one-day knock-out stages are to be decided by each side batting for an extra over rather than bowl out. In addition players will not be allowed a substitute in international matches if leaving the field for a comfort break. It was enough to make everyone want to go to the toilet.
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