ICC Intercontinental Cup 2010 September 3, 2010

Ireland deny undue pressure over Zimbabwe trip

Cricinfo staff

Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, has denied that the Irish cricket team were placed under any undue pressure to travel to Zimbabwe for an Intercontinental Cup match and one-day series in September. Speculation over whether Ireland and Scotland would travel to Zimbabwe was ended when Ireland confirmed their intentions, while Scotland opted out of the tour following advice from the Scottish government against visiting the country.

"Cricket Ireland had made entirely its own decision on this," Deutrom told The Irish Times. "Of course we had to take the ICC's own views, or what the international cricketing fraternity is doing, with India and Sri Lanka's recent tours there. Clearly, that movement towards normalisation, certainly of cricketing structures in Zimbabwe, and of course the movement towards normalisation of political structures, meant it was something that we were duty bound to investigate ourselves."

Zimbabwe were originally admitted to the Intercontinental Cup on the understanding that their 'home' games would be played at neutral venues. There had been a possibility that South Africa would host the team's matches, but in May the ICC related to Cricket Ireland (CI) Zimbabwe Cricket's belief that the relative improvement in the political and cricketing structures in the country meant that it was no longer acceptable to play home matches anywhere other than Zimbabwe.

CI contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Dublin and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London to seek advice on the implications of making the trip. They were given the all-clear, but although the DFA continue to have no objections to Ireland's tour a subsequent change in the FCO's stance led to Scotland's decision to abandon their trip.

"Back in 2008, the advice was that we shouldn't travel from a safety and security perspective," said Deutrom. "From a political perspective, playing cricket in Zimbabwe wasn't something that Cricket Ireland would have even contemplated at that stage.

"However, when we received the message from the ICC, and there was certainly no diktat from them, it was simply a reasonable question about what is the situation with your governments and would you be able to go back and check. We received information from the FCO and the DFA in June that they had no objection to us going."

Ireland players, team management and officials also met Zimbabwe sports minister David Coltart ahead of their decision. Coltart, a former human rights lawyer, was one of the founding members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that is now part of a unity government with Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

"There were a number of questions at the meeting relating to safety and security on the ground, relating to the situation with hotels and hospitals. I raised all of these with the minister and asked him to explain his views on that.

"He also talked about the situation in the country and his own views about how he feels Zimbabwe is very similar to that in South Africa in the early 90s, when South Africa's sporting teams were readmitted to international competition while the apartheid regime was still in power."

Ireland's tour could run into further controversy as it will mark Phil Simmons' first trip to the country since he was axed as Zimbabwe's coach before taking up the role for Ireland. Simmons has taken legal action against ZC in an attempt to recover the $400,000 he claims he is still owed after being sacked without compensation with two years still remaining on his contract in 2005.

"He obviously had some concerns. Phil's previous position was that he certainly had no intention of going back to Zimbabwe," said Deutrom. "I'm guessing this has come a little bit earlier than he would have wanted, but we've made sure he has as much comfort in terms of his decision to go.

"I've spoken to him about this and he does genuinely believe that the situation has moved on significantly from when he was there, even from the situation two years ago."

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  • Dummy4 on September 7, 2010, 9:35 GMT

    good on ireland for going to zimbabwe they have ambitions and i think they can beat zimbabwe and prove to the icc that they can be granted test status and will do alright do it before england poach boyd rankin, george dockrill and paul striling

  • andrew on September 6, 2010, 11:33 GMT

    really looking forward to this series - i don't suppose it will be televised?

  • Levi on September 6, 2010, 7:14 GMT

    scotland should stand up to the UK goverment for what is right, they should take inspiration from irelands stance on the matter. england just want to poach players under their jurisdiction from ireland scotland south africa. c'mon UK/england enough if enough just because u left africa in the 90s and treat IRE/SCO colonially as well as africa u think its stuck in the mess u left it in well open your eyes and bout time u pulled your heads in. ireland hav shown that unlike scotland being bullied to follow "changing" prehistoric legislation will not be tolerated. ireland stood up outside of the UK and spoke for itself scotland should do the same.

  • Terry on September 4, 2010, 17:55 GMT

    Ireland is most likely willing to tour Zimbarbwe as it will increase their chances to become a full member and thus a test country (which they should be granted as of the middle of next year with Zimb's readmittance to test cricket). That said, I hope that Ireland goes to Zimb and wins, but I think it will be their toughest "test" match that they have played so far. Lets hope that the ICC recognises Irelands talent and promotes them and the winner of the ICup to Test status for 2 years with the 12th test team being replaced by ICup winner every 2 years. Eventually I hope that all ICup and IShield matches get given Test status and thus Ireland, Scotland and several others will be recognised as test countries.

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