The Zimbabwe crisis April 21, 2004

Financial worries leave England ready to tour

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Peter Chingoka: a relieved man © Getty Images
On the day that a leading British journalist was deported from Harare, and another barred from reporting at Bulawayo, the England and Wales Cricket Board all but confirmed that November's planned tour of Zimbabwe would go ahead.

ECB officials met with Peter Chingoka, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union chairman, at Lord's where he urged his counterparts to fufil its commitment to tour. He told the management board meeting that the ZCU was a multi-racial, apolitical organisation free of government influence.

"We have always stated very clearly that sport is for the sporting people," Chingoka said. "Politicians can handle their business outside the sporting arena and we stand by that. We encourage the ECB and all the other boards to work for the betterment of cricket. The cricket industry must survive and prosper."

John Read, the ECB's director of communications, told reporters that the board had "no reason to disbelieve" Chingoka's assurances. : "At a recent meeting of the International Cricket Council in Auckland it was decided not only to fine a country up to £1.1million, but also to suspend that country from international cricket for up to a year," he added. "Since 90 per cent of our revenue comes from international cricket, if we were banned for a year that would amount to something in excess of £50m. It would have a devastating effect on the game in this country."

Chingoka left Lord's in better spirits than he arrived, relieved that he had gone a long way to achieving his aim. "We are very confident that the tour will take place," he said. "By coming to Zimbabwe the English team will benefit Zimbabwean cricket, in exactly the same fashion that our visit here in 2003 helped English cricket."

The ECB will not make a final decision until they have met with, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, early next month. But the government can do little more than reaffirm its opposition to the tour, and given that is not enough for the ICC, it seems that the tour is on.