England to tour Zimbabwe
England have decided to tour Zimbabwe later this year, according to David Morgan, the ECB's chairman. The board had earlier hinted that they would pull out of the tour, protesting against the policies of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president.
However, the growing fears about the potentially crippling financial penalties imposed by the ICC if they boycotted the tour prodded the ECB into a change of mind. England were also under the threat of losing their status as hosts of the ICC Champions Trophy in September.
Speaking to the Independent on Sunday, Morgan said there were few reasons to cancel the tour. "The only way that I can see us not fulfilling the tour is either because of government directive or because of safety and security. And let me emphasise we don't see them as being issues at the moment."
Morgan added that if England did cancel the tour, tough measures would be taken. "I have little doubt that if without acceptable non-compliance we decided not to go, the members of the ICC would find it necessary to ensure that we paid an appropriate financial penalty."
His comments came at a time when Zimbabwe cricket was reeling after the abrupt dismissal of several players. Following the sacking of Heath Streak, Zimbabwe's then-captain, more than a dozen white players were fired by an increasingly politically managed Zimbabwe Cricket Union. It prompted Streak to call on the ICC, asking it to intervene in the spiraling conflict between the players and the cricket board.
The English government had originally opposed the tour of Zimbabwe for political reasons, but had stopped short of ordering the cancellation of the tour - a move that would have made it easier for the ECB to avoid the ICC's penalties.
"Despite having a lot of support and encouragement, there was a clear message from the nine other full members [of the ICC], the three representatives of the associate countries and the president and chief executive that we should tour Zimbabwe unless [our] government tells [us] not to go or it's unsafe, which would be acceptable non-compliance."