Future of Zimbabwe cricket June 24, 2008

The ICC's diminishing choices

Next week the ICC executive will sit down and discuss the future of Zimbabwe. As their choices narrow, Martin Williamson looks at the three options on the table.

Ray Mali and Peter Chingoka in happier times © Getty Images

Suspend Zimbabwe's Full Membership

They have already been out of Test cricket for three years and to suspend them from one-day cricket as well would hardly make much impact given how often they play. At least removing them from the FTP would banish the numerous rows dotted on the calendar whenever they are due to play, as well as relieving pressure on countries to tour there. In return, the ICC could ensure Zimbabwe gets invited to Associate one-day tournaments and other domestic events, probably in Asia, to allow the squad to progress.

They would still receive full funding and their place on the ICC executive and the domestic structure, as it is, would survive. The ICC could then review their position at each quarterly meeting.

Likelihood A compromise that would suit all parties. Zimbabwe would keep the cash and the clout but not have to worry about finding opposition. The ICC would also be seen to be doing something while actually doing very little of consequence.

Do nothing

Until a few weeks ago, this would have been an almost guaranteed response, but the ICC has been outflanked by events. There are undoubtedly some, until very recently led by outgoing president Ray Mali, who would still want to take this option but they risk more general opprobrium for doing so. Given that David Morgan, Mali's successor, doesn't want his two years at the helm to be dogged by the issue that stalked him while he was at the helm of the ECB, he is likely to use his political skills to ensure that something ... anything ... does happen. But insiders believe that India could well block any major action against Zimbabwe.

Likelihood Given the factions within the ICC and Peter Chingoka's experience, he might be able to drive a big enough wedge between various parties to ensure Zimbabwe limps on. There may, however, be trade-offs regarding their playing side.

Downgrade Zimbabwe to Associate status

This would achieve all the above but also result in a massive reduction in revenues for the board, with a consequential slashing of jobs within Zimbabwe Cricket. To offset this, Zimbabwe could receive what amounts to a parachute payment to allow them to readjust but this would need to come with strings attached in the form of much tighter financial controls.

As a further sweetener, Zimbabwe could be guaranteed World Cup entry in 2011. In all other respects, they would then be free to be treated the same as, say, Kenya, in that they would be invited to Associate and ICC tournaments (such as the ICC Intercontinental Cup) but, for the time being, there may have to be an agreement they do not play any games at home.

Zimbabwe would also lose Full Member voting rights within the ICC, but it can be argued that a country which does not play Test cricket and barely manages to fulfil its one-day commitments should not have such a powerful voice anyway.

Likelihood Remote. There are too many factions who rely on Zimbabwe's support within the ICC and would be reluctant to see a guaranteed vote removed. Given their playing strength and generally shambolic board, this might be what some believe they deserve but not what they will get.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo