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 Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 14:25 GMT
Pressure mounts on ICC
Nasser Hussain plays a square cut
England last played in Zimbabwe in October 2000

When the England chairman of selectors' comments over Zimbabwe were put to International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed the reply was curt.

"This is the same man who managed a rebel tour of South Africa," Speed said in response to David Graveney's support for players who choose not to visit the country.

The dilemma facing six international sides as they prepare for February's World Cup is not unique in cricket history.

If England boycott their games as a political decision, they will lose the points

Malcolm Speed
ICC chief executive
Graveney was part of Mike Gatting's rebel England tour to South Africa in 1990, a series that is credited with opening South Africa's eyes to global opposition to the Apartheid regime.

However, while the rebels asserted that sport and politics should not mix, it was the hosts who finally conceded there could be "no normal sport in an abnormal society".

South Africa was expelled by the ICC in 1970, but not until unbearable pressure was brought to bear on the game's authorities, especially by activists in England.

Although rebel tours continued throughout that period, there was no question of official endorsement for matches in a country no longer recognised by cricket's governing body.

Zimbabwe offers a different dilemma, with the ICC insisting it can only make decisions based on security rather than political considerations.

The authorities have been forced to make hard rules in light of the situation in Pakistan, where many teams have refused to tour following 11 September and the Kashmir conflict with India.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed
Speed insists Zimbabwe will host matches
Besides England and Australia, none of the other four teams scheduled to play in Zimbabwe - Pakistan, India, the Natherlands and Namibia - has voiced similar concern.

In fact, Pakistan have recently completed a tour of Zimbabwe without incident.

In April, shortly after Robert Mugabe was re-elected president of Zimbabwe, Australia postponed their tour of the country indefinitely, citing concerns for the safety of their players.

But it would have been difficult it to have gone ahead after Australian Prime Minister John Howard had demanded Commonwealth sanctions against the Mugabe regime.

Australia also have a history of forfeiting World Cup matches.

They and West Indies chose not to play in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo following a bomb blast in 1996, and lost points as a result.

Contingency plan

Speed emphasised that any team not playing a match in Zimbabwe would forfeit the points.

That could mean England not reaching the tournament's second round.

Nasser Hussain and David Graveney
Graveney (right) has voiced concerns
He insisted points would be lost for a cancellation on political grounds even if the UK Government was to ban its side from visiting Harare on 13 February.

However, the ICC is finalising a process to decide on the safety risks to players and officials.

"[Visiting teams] could obtain a ruling as to safety and security - if the ruling was in their favour, they would share the points with Zimbabwe," said Speed.

World Cup organisers also have a plan to shift matches to South Africa at short notice, with Pietermaritzburg on the east coast the most likely location.

Ironically, in the last English side to play in the city, against a South Africa Invitation XI in 1990, was a left-arm spinner named DA Graveney.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 England chairman of selectors David Graveney
"I'm not seeking to unduly influence the players"
 ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed
"We believe it's safe to play there"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should England play cricket in Zimbabwe?

Yes
 28.57% 

No
 71.43% 

56962 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision

Background

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See also:

24 May 02 | Cricket
24 Jan 02 | Australia v South Africa
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