July 1, 2008

Don't punish cricket for Mugabe's sins

John Traicos
Why banning Zimbabwe from the game for political reasons isn't the way to go
  shares 41

'There is nothing Zimbabwe Cricket or its supporters can do to secure a change of political scene © Getty Images

If the principal reason for the moves towards banning Zimbabwe Cricket is the political situation in the country, then I do not believe that a ban is justified. Cricket and politics should be kept separate as far as possible, unless politics interferes to such an extent that the cricketing body is not a good ICC cricket citizen.

There have been several instances in recent years where there has been political involvement in cricket affairs - Pakistan, Sri Lanka - but there has not been a ban by the ICC. The fact that Robert Mugabe is the patron of Zimbabwe Cricket should not in itself be a reason to ban Zimbabwe from international cricket.

There may be other good reasons to consider censuring Zimbabwe, or even applying a temporary ban, such as improper handling of finances, inadequate cricket development policies, or breaches of ICC regulations. If such reasons do exist then appropriate action can be taken to rectify that conduct.

If Zimbabwe is to be censured, or even temporarily banned, there must be a way forward to enable Zimbabwe Cricket to overcome its deficiencies so that it can regain its place as a member of the ICC and participate internationally. If the only solution is the retirement or withdrawal of Robert Mugabe or his political party from politics, then the reason for banning Zimbabwe is most likely unjustified because there is not much that Zimbabwe Cricket or its supporters can do to secure a change of political scene.

Overall, the ICC has a duty to promote and develop cricket wherever it is played. Zimbabwe can be no exception just because of unfortunate political circumstances. To banish Zimbabwe from international cricket because it happens to be in political difficulties would be unfair on its cricketers and supporters, who are part and parcel of the greater international brotherhood of cricket.

Even if you adopted a strictly political view and identified Robert Mugabe and his ruling party with Zimbabwe Cricket, it would be difficult to sustain that argument against the strong likelihood that most cricketers and cricket followers would have voted against Robert Mugabe's government in the recent elections, which in fact should have resulted in a defeat for Mugabe had it not been for the recent internal violence. To remove the Zimbabwe government or even change the patron of Zimbabwe Cricket under the current circumstances is clearly a difficult or impossible task for anyone.

If Zimbabwe is to be censured or banned, a way forward must be found to enable Zimbabwe Cricket to overcome its deficiencies so that it can regain its place as a member of the ICC and participate internationally

The political scene in Zimbabwe is causing great concern amongst countries worldwide who are contemplating the application of stricter political sanctions against Zimbabwe and its leaders. If sanctions and other punitive action come into effect, there may well be limits placed on the ability of Zimbabwe cricketers to play internationally and of teams to visit Zimbabwe.

The result will be a sad one for international cricket if a country that has under difficult circumstances developed the game reasonably successfully among its local population since 1992 is unable to participate in the sport internationally. A cricketing nation could be permanently severed from the game.

Unless there are reasons other than political ones to censure Zimbabwe Cricket, I believe that the ICC should be considering how best to help Zimbabwe Cricket to keep the game alive and how to overcome its other difficulties, which may be unacceptable to the international cricket community. Imposing a ban that can only be lifted by future political events will be unrealistic.

John Traicos played four Tests for South Africa in 1969-70 and three more for Zimbabwe in 1992-93. He also played 27 ODIs for Zimbabwe between 1983 and 1992-93.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ibrahim on July 3, 2008, 15:54 GMT

    I'm no fan of Robert Mugabe--I think he's done as much to harm a country as almost any other individual in history--but I don't think ZC should be punished for this state of affairs, banning a cricket board will not save the country, nor will it show any kind of intent. I also don't think democracy as a system is anywhere near the answer to solving Zimbabwe's problems--the system brings as many faults as it does advantages, as can be seen in the cases of many democratic but definitely unhappy countries around the world--but freedom of speech should be promoted, as should the rights of white Zimbabweans. I thought skin color didn't make a difference, but Mugabe is fighting olden-day racism with modern-day racism. The guy's a lunatic but don't punish Zimbabwean cricket for it.

  • hayden on July 3, 2008, 6:41 GMT

    Wijerama???? what are you saying that england should pay for things done 200 odd years ago and even further back than that????? the world was once a primitive place!!! no country has been perfect if you look back through 100s and 100s of years of history! the issue now is what ethical stand should the cricket world take on a country that has a despot in power and whom is breaking his own country's law that he is meant to uphold as well as where is the money going that the icc gives Zimbabwe cricket!!! some articles written by Steve price on this site are less than complementary about the wheelings and dealings of zimbabwe cricket! India is only taking the stand it is due to the fact zimbabwe vote blindly in favor of what ever India's agenda is!!! India themselves cancelled their tour to zimbabwe this year!!!!

  • M. on July 2, 2008, 19:02 GMT

    To those who say that the motivation behind trying to ban, expell or suspend Zimbabwe from the ICC is about financial mismanagement of Zim's cricket board and not politics, just read what the worlds holiest Brits are saying about it. It is politics pure and simple.

    I suggest you chaps send your talking points to the British Foreign Office so they can come up with a more nuanced argument for denying the Zimbabwean people the pleasure of cricket. But as of now the reason remains politics.

    And unlike apartheid South Africa that did not allow black South Africans to play, there is no such situation in Zimababwe. The issue is an internal one of those who are for and against Mugabe and his regime.

    The British have yet to suffer sanctions for the tens of thousands they have killed and billions they plundered in their modern history. But I would not want to deny the British public the pleasure of cricket becuase of the crimes of their rulers.

  • Jang on July 2, 2008, 15:57 GMT

    I am not surprised that BCCI is backing Zimbabwe. After all, they are treating ICL the same way Mugabe is treating his opposition.

  • Matthew on July 2, 2008, 15:05 GMT

    Can someone please explain to me how the situation in Zimbabwe is (laughs) better than apartheid South Africa during the 70s and 80s, an era when the greatest left hander ever to grace the game was unable to perform his magic because of South Africa being barred from the international cricket community? Oh that's right...it's because if the spiked boot is black, wear it!

  • James Martin on July 2, 2008, 12:33 GMT

    Having lived in China until a month ago, I believe that the scenes we see from Zimbabwe are far worse. China is safe, and is governed according to the laws of the country. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe is breaking the laws of his own country to take power and it is clear the country is unstable. No country is perfect, and sport should not make a judgement over politics unless extreme circumstances prevail (South Africa 1970-1991 anyone?) But, please, let's all grow up and acknowledge that the situation in Zimbabwe is far worse than any political rights or wrongs in other full or associate member countries.

    Personally, I think that Zimbabwe's full status should be removed as they do not warrant the status because of the standard they play, the fact no signs of improvement in that standard are present and that there is little evidence of effective use of ICC funds. Why make this a political argument when a strong enough cricket one?

  • Jeremy on July 2, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    Countries should not be banned for political reasons, however if a country uses cricket as a political weapon then it should be banned. Zimbabwe cricket has been used as a political pawn of the mugabe regime, chingoka and Bvute are both political apointees. The team has seen mass resignations, those that had cricket at heart in Zimbabwe have been sidelined. The money is gone and the standard of cricket has become third rate. Better to suspend Zimbabwe rather than squander a fortune on mismangement, save the funds for when there can be resposible management in Zimbabwe. India keeping Zimbabwe purely for a swing vote is politics and should be illegal.

  • Prashant on July 2, 2008, 5:45 GMT

    Why does England not boycott the Olympics in China if it wants to use sport as a means to protest against politics? Is it because Zimbabwe is an easy target while China is not?

  • hayden on July 2, 2008, 5:32 GMT

    why not just make it a pre requisite to being a full member of the icc that every full member nation has to play 8 test matches or more a year? that will mean if India wants Zimbabwe to stay a full member then India will have to do a full tour there and observe the human rights violations themselves!!! as no other country in particular aus, eng, nz & s africa will go anywhere near the place! also India would need to host them more frequently as the same countries who wont tour there will not issue visas for Zimbabwe's players to enter the country! this would also mean the bcci would have to face a cut to its revenue as no tv station is going to pay top dollar for a India v Zimbabwe series no matter if its tests, ODI or even twenty20!!! and finally if Zimbabwe doesn't play 8 tests the icc would have a legitimate cricket based reason to give them the flick!

  • Deepak on July 2, 2008, 4:32 GMT

    I hope the ICC decides to act firmly on the cricket boards of Hong Kong (under China - the longest ever dictatorship and suppression of human rights, Tienanmen anyone, and the lack of a free and fair election)and Bangladesh (all politicians in jail and country ruled by ghost rulers)to bring about positive changes in these countries too...Next in line can be the boards of South Africa (Rights violation against immigrants), India (Kashmir) and Sri Lanka (Tamils). While they are at it, they can probably suspend the USA for the unlawful occupation of Iraq, England for having supported the US in that and Netherlands (for the immorality of having prostitution legal there). Soon we will have a world that is free of Dictators, Human rights violations, War and Cricket.

  • No featured comments at the moment.