Shadow of Zimbabwe continues to stalk the ECB
A report in today's Daily Telegraph says that the British government may stop short of banning Zimbabwe from touring in 2009 and are holding ongoing discussions with the ECB over the issue.
If the government were to ban Zimbabwe's players then the ICC would not be able to punish the ECB. However, the paper claims that the government are keen that the board finds a solution itself, although this is unlikely given recent comments from Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe Cricket's chairman.
Cricinfo has learned from sources close to the government that the preferred option is for Zimbabwe to be banned from playing their bilateral series against England in May-June 2009 but for their players to be admitted for the ICC World Twenty20 later that summer. That would avoid any moves to switch the tournament to another country, which is the ECB's major concern.
The report points out that political events may overtake cricketing ones. Robert Mugabe faces fresh elections in March, and while it is unlikely he will lose, with Zimbabwe's economy in meltdown - January inflation is around 150,000% - he could face a leadership challenge from within his own party.
Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said he was confident that unlike previous tours, this time the government would not leave the board to make a decision. "My impression is that the government will not leave this to the cricket authorities and that they will not issue visas to Zimbabwe when they come here," he told the Daily Telegraph.
The one problem that does remain is that Chingoka has been banned from entering the UK because of what the Foreign Office maintains are his close links to the Mugabe regime. Even if Zimbabwe were allowed to participate in the ICC World Twenty20, Chingoka would not be permitted to attend. It remains to be seen how the ICC would view that.