Future of Zimbabwe cricket June 25, 2008

British government bans Zimbabwe team

Cricinfo staff

Gordon Brown: 'We will call for other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 international tournament' © Getty Images
The pressure on the ICC to act over Zimbabwe grew with news that the British government has made it clear to the ECB that the Zimbabwe team will not be allowed into the country to take part in next summer's ICC World Twenty20.

The consensus was that while the side would be barred from taking part in a bilateral one-day series in May, they would be permitted to attend for the ICC event. But, in the light of the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe, that line has hardened in the last week.

Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister, told the House of Commons that he wanted the Zimbabwe side banned. "The secretary for culture is working with the English board," he said. "We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year and we will call for other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 international tournament."

Jeremy Hunt, the culture, media and sport spokesman for the Conservatives, told parliament: "Gordon Brown needs to match tough words with tough actions. "If we are not going to recognise the regime, why are we welcoming a team that is run by Mugabe's henchmen and will only be used to legitimise the evil he is perpetrating? Banning them from coming, by refusing to issue visas would send a clear message to Mugabe - the Zimbabwe cricket team is not welcome here whilst his criminal regime hangs on to power."

The ICC, which is to discuss Zimbabwe's future next week, is left with a difficult choice.

If it suspends or expels Zimbabwe from Full Member status then the problem goes away as they would immediately forfeit their place in the competition. But if Zimbabwe remain eligible to play, then the ICC will need to decide if the event can proceed in England.

Next week's ICC annual conference should have been staged in London, but with Peter Chingoka, the Zimbabwe board chairman, barred from entry to the UK, the executive moved the show to Dubai.

It would take a complete about-turn for them to accept that the World Twenty20 could proceed as planned without a Full Member being present, and when the executive last met the majority of members were adamant such a situation would not be allowed.