ICC Intercontinental Cup 2010 August 31, 2010

Scotland reverse decision to tour Zimbabwe

Cricinfo staff

Scotland have reversed their decision to tour Zimbabwe for an Intercontinental Cup fixture in October, following advice from the Scottish government and ministers against visiting the country. The match was initially scheduled to be held at a neutral African venue before the Scotland board agreed to a proposal to host it in Zimbabwe, but a change in the UK government's policy has led to the decision not to tour.

"The government is firmly of the view that there has not yet been sufficient progress in Zimbabwe on the fundamental issues of political reform and of re-establishing the rule of law to justify sports tours by British teams and the positive signal that would send," the ministers had advised the board. "We therefore strongly advise against such visits. We recognise that the final decision is for the relevant cricket boards, but hope they will consider their decisions carefully in the light of our unequivocal advice."

The Scotland board considered the advice, and following discussions with the ICC, decided to abide by it.

Roddy Smith, the Cricket Scotland chief, said the board had been in an "impossible no-win situation" that left them without any other course of action. "Although accepting that this decision will not be welcomed by some key partners, we felt that as a responsible governing body we could not, and would not, contravene the direct and unequivocal advice from the government," Smith said. "We hope that the Scotland team can look forward to playing in Zimbabwe again in the future if and when Government policy allows."

Scotland's decision comes as a setback to Zimbabwe's steady return to the fold following their withdrawal from Test cricket in 2006. India and Sri Lanka toured the country for a triangular series in May, and Ireland confirmed their September trip for an Intercontinental Cup game and three ODIs. Kenya and Afghanistan recently played their Intercontinental Cup matches in the country. Former international fast-bowlers Allan Donald and Jason Gillespie gave Zimbabwe and its cricketing infrastructure a vote of confidence by taking up coaching assignments with domestic teams.

Zimbabwe Cricket confirmed Scotland's decision and said the possibility of staging the games at a neutral venue was ruled out. "The decision is regrettable," Ozais Bvute, Zimbabwe cricket's managing director, said. "We have consulted with our various authorities who have all ruled out the possibility of these matches being played in a neutral venue.

"I remain of the belief that sport can build bridges and I have confidence that it can also act as a catalyst for healing and national unity. It is with this in mind that we hope that in the not too distant future, all the strained sporting relations will be restored for the common good of all."