The Zimbabwe tour January 21, 2004

ICC: England face legal action

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Ehsan Mani: unmoved by moral stance
© Getty Images

The England & Wales Cricket Board is on a collision course with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, after being warned by the ICC that they could face legal action if they pull out of this winter's tour.

A report in this morning's Times newspaper suggested that England were set to pull out of the tour for moral reasons. But such a stance holds no sway at the ICC, who have told the ZCU that they would be entitled to compensation.

"All Test-playing countries, including England, have given a binding commitment to each other that political considerations would not be a factor when reviewing playing obligations," said Ehsan Mani, the President of the ICC, after meeting with ECB chiefs David Morgan and Tim Lamb. "In this case, the arrangements for the tour have been made on a bi-lateral basis under the umbrella of the ICC's future tours program."

The program obliges each team to play each other team once at home and once away in a minimum of a two-Test and three one-day international series over a five-year period. Although Zimbabwe have visited England twice in three years, England have not been on a Test tour to Zimbabwe since Mike Atherton's ill-fated trip in 1996-97, although they did play a five-game one-day series in 2001.

The ECB will make their final decision at a meeting on January 29, and is under pressure to pull out following a report from Des Wilson, their most recently appointed member and a former vice-chairman of Sport England. "Sport," he argues, "both affects and is affected by politics."

The ZCU, meanwhile, remain optimistic that the tour will proceed as planned. "There has been no formal advice from the ECB to clarify the matter," said the chairman Peter Chingoka. "We expect that the tour will go ahead."