Zimbabwe left in isolation by long overdue response

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The Independent Online

Cricket South Africa should be applauded for suspending its bilateral agreement with Zimbabwe Cricket, a move that should finally force cricket's administrators to abandon their association with the country.

CSA's decision has at last kicked other equally influential bodies into action too. In response the British Government has stated that the Zimbabwe cricket side, which is scheduled to tour England next year and compete here in the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup, would not be welcome. The refreshing and belated stance has also created waves within cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council, and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The ICC will discuss what to do with Zimbabwe Cricket, a board whose finances are considered to contain "serious financial irregularities", and whose cricket side have been suspended from Test cricket, on grounds of ability, for three years, at next week's executive board meeting in Dubai. On a day of unprecedented reaction the ECB has responded too, calling an emergency board meeting tomorrow to decide whether it wishes to take any action.

It is about time a group of administrators took action in response to what has and continues to take place in Zimbabwe; it is only a shame that it was left to CSA, Zimbabwe's closest allies, to make the decision and not the British Government, ICC or ECB. Zimbabwe has been a maggot-infested open wound sitting on the face of cricket for quite some time, causing huge embarrassment to anyone who places the moral integrity of the game ahead of money, the commodity cricket cannot get enough of these days. One of the only non-Zimbabweans to have taken a moral stand in recent times is Nasser Hussain, the former England captain. Hussain refused to take his side to Zimbabwe at the 2003 World Cup, a brave and admirable move that ultimately ended England's chances of winning the tournament.

Hussain's decision was undoubtedly influenced by the actions of the Zimbabwean cricketers Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, who wore black armbands in the team's opening game of the World Cup to signify the death of democracy in the country. Like almost all of Zimbabwe's best cricketers, Flower and Olonga have since left the country. Both live in England, and Flower has since become the assistant coach of the England team. Flower is delighted that CSA has taken such a stance and hopes the rest of cricket follows suit.

"I support a suspension," he said. "We should not have normal relations with a country in such an abnormal state. I don't think they should play in England next year on either the tour or in the ICC World Twenty20. It's all good, especially on South Africa's part. It's about time they did something strong. Leaving aside the cricket, I think South Africa has been pathetically weak about the whole subject. I like the fact that they are moving onto stronger language and being more decisive.

"Things are spiralling out of control so quickly in Zimbabwe now. I hope someone does something to arrest that. If suspending Zimbabwe from the ICC is the first step, then that's good.

"I'm no politician when it comes to the ICC, but I do know that Peter Chingoka [Zimbabwe Cricket's chief executive] is part of Robert Mugabe's despicable clan and the fact that he's allowed to prance around with the ICC colours on and sit on ICC committees is embarrassing, and embarrassing for the ICC – he's just not a good enough person to be making decisions about anything, especially not the finances of the ICC for instance. There will have to be a government change for cricket to move forward there. Because the people in charge of cricket there at the moment are part of Mugabe's supporters – they are all in bed with him.

"We were never strong but it's in such a poor state now. It's very sad. So many people gave up so much time and energy to get us into international cricket in the first place – people who weren't paid. They did it for the love of the game and the love of their country. It is now pretty much ruined and to change it round is going to take a massive effort, but there are still probably enough good people left to do it. But it would need a change of government."