ECB statement leaves issues unresolved December 14, 2007

Questions remain over ECB offer to Zimbabwe

Cricinfo staff



Peter Chingoka: 'If the ECB have commercial worries concerning our tour, they should take it up with the ICC' © Getty Images
The ECB's attempts to play down last week's meeting between ECB chairman Giles Clarke and Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), have attracted criticism from Zimbabwe's Independent newspaper, who broke the original story.

The England board, which had not made the meeting public, was forced to issue a press release yesterday in which it said that Clarke had been "in dialogue" with ZC as well as other boards regarding future fixtures.

However, the ECB failed to address two other claims made by the Independent. The first was that Clarke had offered to pay £200,000 to ZC to go towards development if it agreed to cancel the scheduled tour of England in May 2009, and also allowed England to postpone their tour to Zimbabwe in 2011. Chingoka is believed to have rejected those proposals out of hand.

The second was that the ECB was prepared to press the UK government to grant visas to Zimbabwe 's players and officials to allow them to visit the UK for the 2009 ICC World Twenty20.

While the ECB release referred vaguely to "logistical problems", sources close to ZC have told Cricinfo that Clarke wanted the tours scrapped to avoid the endless debates that have surrounded such meetings in recent years, and also to circumvent possible financial penalties from the ICC were England to choose not to honour its commitments.

Chingoka, who is at the heart of the visa situation as he was banned from entering the UK in October, said yesterday that Zimbabwe would not back down from their 2009 tour. It had been reported that without Tests, the 2009 tour would consist only of ODIs and so would not be financially viable.

"I assured the ECB that we will be playing Test cricket by the time we are supposed to tour England," Chingoka told the Independent. "I reminded him that we had made an undertaking at the ICC meeting in June to be playing Test cricket by 2009 and that's all minuted.

"The FTP compels us to play at least two Tests and three ODIs and we are entitled to go to England," he said. "If the ECB have commercial worries concerning our tour, they should take it up with the ICC."

The source went on to tell Cricinfo that Clarke had presented a memorandum of understanding to Chingoka when the pair met in Johannesburg, adding that Clarke "never mentioned any commercial reasons for the cancellation of the tour but talked about the political tensions the Zimbabwe issue always raises".

And while the ECB was keen to portray the meeting with Chingoka as a routine one to discuss the Future Tours Programme, that was rather clouded by the ICC's confirmation that its acting chairman, Ray Mali, felt the need to be in attendance as a "facilitator".

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