Zimbabwe snub to BBC

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The Independent Online

Bob Cottam, the England bowling coach, is not the only one who will be missing when England go on their travels to Zimbabwe, India and New Zealand this winter. After confirmation that Cottam had been sacked from his uncontracted post, the BBC learned that the Test Match Special team had been refused entry to Zimbabwe for the five-match one-day international series with England at the end of September.

A fax from the Zimbabwean High Commission to Broadcasting House yesterday confirmed what the Corporation had been expecting, that their radio team were part of a blanket ban imposed on BBC journalists by President Robert Mugabe's government.

Last night John Read, the England and Wales Cricket Board's director of corporate affairs, said: "The ECB would be concerned if the BBC were banned from Zimbabwe. We want to investigate the matter further."

For the trip to India and New Zealand there were unconfirmed reports at The Oval yesterday that neither Alec Stewart nor Darren Gough would travel. In Stewart's case he has spent the last dozen winters toiling in foreign climes, but his absence might jeopardise his future selection, opening the way for a younger successor.

As for Gough he may well feel that the time off will help him recharge in the run-up to an even more gruelling programme the following winter which starts with the International Cricket Council Knock-out in India, followed by the Ashes series in Australia, before the 2003 World Cup gets under way in South Africa, and finally there is a one-day tournament back in Australia.

The England management was last night rumoured to be trying to talk Gough into changing his mind about not touring. No one, though, was trying to persuade Cottam to stay on. He was brought in as a specialist coach by Duncan Fletcher's predecessor, David Lloyd, four years ago and has presided over a marked improvement in England's attacking capabilities. Graham Dilley is to replace him.

"I am still in a state of shock. There was no reason given," said Cottam. "I drove back to the West Country deeply disappointed [after being given the news by Fletcher] and wondering what I had done. If I had nicked £100 from the till I could have understood it. But I cannot think of any cock-ups I have committed."

Cottam has no written contract, but worked on a verbal agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

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