Zimbabwe cricket may be set for international isolation
The England and Wales Cricket Board has cancelled Zimbabwe's 2009 tour because of continued political unrest.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham sent a letter to the ECB clarifying Prime Minister Gordon Brown's views on the sanctions to be placed on Zimbabwe.
"All bilateral arrangements are suspended with Zimbabwe Cricket with immediate effect," said the ECB.
Zimbabwe were set to play two Tests and three one-dayers in England next year, as well as the World Twenty20 in June.
The ECB's stance follows the decision of Cricket South Africa (CSA) - traditionally one of Zimbabwe's supporters in cricket - to sever its bilateral links on Tuesday in the wake of the country's deepening political and economic turmoil.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham explains his decision
"The ECB deplores the position in Zimbabwe and, like CSA, finds this untenable," added the statement.
"We welcome the government's decision and share the government's concerns about the deteriorating situation and lack of human rights in Zimbabwe."
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon he wanted other cricket-playing countries to join the sporting boycott of Zimbabwe.
"We want to ensure that Zimbabwe do not tour England next year," Brown said during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
"We will call on other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe."
But the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from the second round of Zimbabwe's general election amid reports of violence and intimidation by supporters of Robert Mugabe's regime appears to have spurred the British government into action.
Unless Zimbabwe are suspended from the ICC next week, it still has the right to play to play international tournaments
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
The British government had been involved in discussions with the ECB over the situation in Zimbabwe for the past 18 months.
"The only 'acceptable non-compliance', as it's called, is a clear instruction from government or a security situation," ECB chief executive David Collier told the BBC.
"The secretary of State (Burnham) made it clear there was a clear instruction and we have acted to it straight away."
England batsman Andrew Strauss recently said his team-mates would consider boycotting matches against Zimbabwe if Mugabe stayed on as president.
But Burnham said the government's stance had removed the pressure from the players.
"It was quite unfair to leave individual players in the position of having to make a moral judgement in the context of an awkward and uncomfortable position," Burnham told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"The right thing to do was to provide clarity. We made the decision after giving it the longest possible time for the situation to change in Zimbabwe.
"I hope the cricketing community in this country and the wider world will understand the reasons why I have done that."
The ECB also confirmed it is in "detailed discussions" to find a replacement for the early part of next summer before the 2009 Ashes series.
"We do have contingency plans in case any tour is cancelled," said Collier.
"We are already in consultation with other boards about the possibility of another country coming in to play two Tests and three one-day internationals at the start of next year to replace exactly the programme Zimbabwe would have undertaken."
The BBC's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said the government's stance is a "serious shift" from three years ago.
"The ECB looked for this sort of reaction from the government to stop them going on tour to Zimbabwe in 2004," he said.
"But the government didn't give them that and they had to go - and felt very uncomfortable about it."
CSA's suspension of Zimbabwe ties prompted the International Cricket Council to discuss a possible world ban next week at its headquarters in Dubai on Wednesday, 2 July.
However, as long as Zimbabwe is a member of the ICC, the team cannot be stopped by the ECB from competing in the ICC World Twenty20 tournament, to be held in England after the planned Tests and one-day internationals.
But if England bar Zimbabwe from touring, the ICC could prevent England from hosting the tournament, which Collier said the ECB and government were well aware of.
"That is part of the hosting agreement for any major world event, but we can't second guess on how the (ICC) meeting will progress next week," said Collier.
President-elect David Morgan has made Zimbabwe an ICC issue
The focus of the meeting in Dubai will be on India, the powerhouse of world cricket, who have traditionally been a supporter of Zimbabwe on the world arena.
"Unless Zimbabwe are suspended from the ICC next week, it still has the right to play international tournaments," said Agnew.
"It is a very delicate situation for the government and the ECB. Seven out of 10 around the table at the ICC have to vote to expel Zimbabwe.
"One of those is Zimbabwe itself, so just two other countries need to support Zimbabwe or the government and the ECB will face a very serious moral dilemma next June."
But despite the threat of losing the World Twenty20, Burnham urged the international cricket community to take a "unanimous view" on Zimbabwe.
"We recognised we (British government) are not the principal decision-makers here, this is a tournament organised by the ICC but we have made our views explicitly clear."
Although Zimbabwe are scheduled to play two Tests next summer, the country has not played a five-day match since September 2005.
Zimbabwe Cricket revoked its Test status in January 2006 because of poor results.
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