8 May 2007

Politicians and cricket boards

More controversy about Zimbabwe and whether to tour there - or at least a little bit of controversy where there should be none. Put aside the fact that Australia are so much better than Zimbabwe that sending their full strength team there would be like men against children still in nappies, they clearly also shouldn't go because of the political situation in Zimbabwe.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said as much, "My view is that the tour shouldn't go ahead. If it were to go ahead then Australia, which is after all the world champion team," (just had to get that in there didn't he - typically Australian!), "would give Zimbabwe's regime and it's President, who has been patron of Zimbabwe Cricket Association, a propaganda victory. We shouldn't do that - this is a horrific regime in Zimbabwe and we should take a stand against it."

Couldn't agree more. But why did he have to go public with that statement now when he's meeting Cricket Australia next week? How much stronger would the statement of not sending the team have been, if he had kept his mouth shut until after the meeting and then the government and Cricket Australia had held a joint press conference utterly condemning Mugabe's regime and publicly stating that the Australian team will not tour Zimbabwe until things have changed. No fuss, no controversy, no big build up. Just the correct decision at the correct time, publicised in the correct way.

Obviously the situation isn't unique to Australia - England had all sorts of problems in the lead up to the last World Cup and the team's refusal to play in Zimbabwe ultimately meant that they didn't make it through the group stages. The difference here though, and this is something that the Australian government should be applauded for, is that the government has already said they would pay the $2m fine from the ICC when Australia decline to tour there. The England team in 2003 unfortunately didn't have that support from their goverment, as Nasser Hussain outlines in his autobiography.

The fact that the ICC are ignoring moral issues and continuing to fine sides that don't tour Zimbabwe is outrageous and surely it's a matter of time before a cricket board or group of national cricket boards gets together to challenge the ICC in a court of law. Until then though, aren't the ICC missing something? If they scheduled back to back series in Zimbabwe then the amount of cricket would be the same - zero - but their revenue would go up through all the fines. Given their stance on Zimbabwe that compleletely lacks and moral considerations, this would seem an obvious road for them to go down.

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