Zimbabwe pull out of World Twenty20
After weeks of backroom manoeuvring and two days of boardroom negotiations, the Zimbabwe issue was resolved with a compromise that sees them pulling out of the 2009 World Twenty20 in England yet retaining their Full Member status with access to full funding from the ICC.
Zimbabwe, whose decision to pull out from the World Twenty20 cleared the roadblock for the competition to be staged in England, will receive its full participation fee for the tournament. The scenario prompted Ray Mali, whose term as ICC president ended today, to call it a "win-win solution".
"We have decided to pull out in the larger interests of the game," Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, told Cricinfo. "We have been informed that the British government may not grant visas to our players, and that situation may prevail during the Twenty20 World Cup. We don't want to be gatecrashers; we will attend only those weddings to which we are invited."
Friday morning's meeting of the ICC executive board, which spilled over into an unscheduled third day, lasted barely 20 minutes and wound up with sighs of relief, smiles all around and a group photo session that featured Mali's successor David Morgan shaking hands warmly with Sharad Pawar, head of the Indian board and the ICC's president-elect.
The morning's session was brief only because the principal players had been working through the night on an agreement that would avert a feared split within the ICC with England and South Africa ranged against India and other Asian countries over the propriety of Zimbabwe's status as Full Member.
In the end, India is believed to have played a key role in the compromise, especially in convincing Zimbabwe that the issue was not about membership of the ICC but about getting back into world cricket.
"We have consulted and exchanged notes with everybody, including our Indian friends, last night," Chingoka said. "We are now looking forward to more tours and international cricket with our Asian friends, especially India."
Mali, it is learnt, also played his part last night in allaying Zimbabwean fears over their future. "Ray Mali, Dave Richardson, Haroon Lorgat and I decided on an adjournment yesterday to take the discussions forward. Mali took the lead (in resolving the issue)," Morgan said, before admitting "there were a number of private meetings after the adjournment."
Morgan said the issue of Zimbabwe's membership was never discussed at the board meeting, which "unanimously" accepted the country's "voluntary proposal" to pull out of the World Twenty20. There were different views on the issue during the hectic discussions, he acknowledged, but dismissed talk of the ICC being divided as a "mistake".
"It was a collective decision and I was a part of that decision," Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, confirmed to Cricinfo.
Zimbabwe's re-integration into mainstream cricket, and possibly the FTP, will be overseen by a three-member ICC sub-committee headed by Julian Hunte, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, and including Arjuna Ranatunga, the president of Sri Lanka Cricket, and an ICC official yet to be confirmed. Hunte and Ranatunga are ICC board members and were part of the official discussions over Zimbabwe here in Dubai.
The sub-committee will advise the ICC board on all matters relating to Zimbabwe cricket; specific terms of reference for its operation have not yet been finalised but it's believed that it will report back to the ICC board in November.
The only window of uncertainty now is the one month that Chingoka has been given to get his board's approval for the arrangement, including the pullout from the World Twenty20. Chingoka calls the shots in ZC so this effectively gives him time to reassess his position, especially if he develops any second thoughts over the compromise.
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore