ICC board meeting July 4, 2008

Teflon kings survive another day

How the ICC has once again compromised over Zimbabwe

Teflon Pete: A smiling Chingoka in Dubai © Getty Images

Anyone who believes that Zimbabwe Cricket withdrew from the World Twenty20 "in the interest of the game" probably believes in Santa Claus. Backed into a corner that even its protecting angels within the ICC could not get it out of, there was little choice. When Peter Chingoka, the man who has come to personify Zimbabwe Cricket said, "We don't want to gatecrash where we are not welcome," it was hard to keep a straight face.

Many argue the Zimbabwe Cricket board has never acted in the interests of cricket either inside or outside the country. Chingoka's bleating that the ICC could not expel Zimbabwe because it was against its own rules would have drawn more than a few wry smiles back home, coming from a man who utterly shredded his own board's constitution two years ago to ensure his own survival.

And that's what the decision today is all about - survival. The end result is a compromise that does little to help cricket inside Zimbabwe, and further tarnishes the already battered image of the ICC.

There remain deep divisions within the ICC over Zimbabwe cricket. Some maintain that the politics of the country should have no bearing on the game; others argue that the two are so inexorably intertwined that it is simply not possible to maintain anything like normal relations on a sporting level.

Chingoka epitomises the quandary. In England, especially, he is seen as a Robert Mugabe stooge. British government sources both inside Zimbabwe and in London maintain they have overwhelming evidence of his political links. That is why he has been refused a visa to enter the UK, even though ICC president David Morgan admitted in April nobody within the ICC had thought it necessary to ask him why the application had been turned down. That seems to sum up the ICC stance: See no evil, hear no evil. Elsewhere, Chingoka is seen as an administrator and a decent man doing his best to survive in a wretched political set-up.

Casting Zimbabwe into the wilderness was not really what anyone wanted. The solution would have been a suspension from cricket, and reduced and supervised funding. Remove the embarrassment of their lamentable cricket performances and put their dubious finances out in the open. As one ICC official said, it would have been putting Zimbabwe cricket into an oxygen tent until things in the country were more conducive to rebuilding the game.

Sadly, pragmatism is not something the ICC is famous for and the real shame of this so-called solution is that it has done nothing for the remnants of grass-roots cricket in the country. A three-man panel has been set up to look into things. Previous ICC fact-finding missions have reported back in glowing terms about the state of the game in Zimbabwe despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The only glimmer of hope is that the latest panel is headed by Julian Hunte, the West Indies board's president and an experienced and capable career politician.

In the UK there will be widespread anger at the fudged outcome in Dubai but absolutely no surprise. It is some time since the ICC has been seen as a body that acts for the right reasons rather than a closed group that represents the self-interest of its board members.

Even the fact that the World Twenty20 remains in England is political. It's certainly nothing to do with Zimbabwe Cricket's largesse. The reality is that the event stands to make too much money for the ICC, and so the various boards. Chingoka was forced to back down, with the trade-off being that Zimbabwe Cricket continues to retain its utterly undeserved place at the game's top table.

It is unlikely that the telephones will be buzzing with requests for ZC to accommodate incoming teams. And given that Zimbabwe have all the commercial appeal of malaria, few will want to incur the losses of a home series

Look deeper into the outcome and the behind-the-scenes deals almost defy belief. Zimbabwe will retain full funding, despite not playing Tests, or any other meaningful cricket, come to that, and what's more, despite questions over the way that money is spent inside Zimbabwe that won't go away. The salt in the wound is that they will get their fee from the ICC World Twenty20 despite not having to even lift a bat in anger. It seems the less Zimbabwe actually play, the more cash rolls in.

You have to feel for leading Associates such as Scotland and Ireland. They play more cricket than Zimbabwe, have far superior domestic structures and thoroughly professional and transparent administrative set-ups. And yet they have to sit back and watch every penny as the dollars pour into the void of Zimbabwe cricket's accounts.

There will be a few wry smiles over Chingoka's unashamed toadying to India, who have fought hard to keep Zimbabwe afloat. "We are now looking forward to more tours and international cricket with our Asian friends, especially India," he gushed. While in theory Zimbabwe remain part of the Future Tours Programme, the reality is that only the four Asian countries and West Indies will even consider playing them. Some will point to the actions of the Indian board as being little short of hypocrisy, given they scrapped their own tour of Zimbabwe last month for the flimsiest of reasons.

For now, Zimbabwe slips back under the radar. It remains to be seen how many countries actually back words with deeds and decide that Harare and Bulawayo are the kind of places they want to visit. It is unlikely that the telephones will be buzzing with requests for ZC to accommodate incoming teams. And given that Zimbabwe have all the commercial appeal of malaria, few will want to incur the losses of a home series.

Zimbabwe, the Teflon kings of the ICC, have survived to fight another day. It might well be that they have used up the last of their political favours to escape this mess, but they have bought themselves a little more time.

For all the arguments that sport and politics don't mix, the irony is that the thing that could oust those overseeing cricket in Zimbabwe is a change of regime in the country. If Mugabe does go then those allied to his Zanu-PF regime will perish along with him. Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC has long lists and longer memories. You can bet that if that day arrives, many of those who backed Zimbabwe through thick and thin will be distancing themselves from the current leadership with almost indecent haste.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hayden on July 9, 2008, 8:19 GMT

    The main problem that alot of you people have is the fact that you keeep getting flogged by the aussies. Keep bragging about your gonna be short lived IPL series. it isn't going to be succesful in many contries outside the sub-continent. there is a place for T20 in cricket but not that over the top ridiculous tournament IPL. By the way in your preciuos tournament who was the player that attracted the highest bid? andrew symonds an aussie. who was the mvp for the tournament? shane watson an aussie. who was the highest run scorer? shaun marsh an aussie. who was the winning captain/coach? shane warne an aussie. we are ranked no 1 in tests and one dayers. we have a population of 20 million to choose from compared to 1 billion, so for us to even have a team is unbeleivable but to beable to hold many records and world cups is an embrassment to indian cricket. only thing you have is your talk on blogs like this where is we leave our action on the field to do the talking!

  • hayden on July 8, 2008, 2:38 GMT

    why is every Asian poster so anti the ecb and cricket Australia what decisions have they made (past or present) that have done any sub continent team harm or given them reason to be so against them? why not put zimbabwe in the intercontinental cup being played amongst top affiliate nations and give who ever wins full membership that way if Zimbabwe's cricket is good enough they will rightfully be a icc full member and when they don't win due to no money being spent on their domestic structure and their player pool being the worst its been since they received full membership due to ZC's corruption then the icc will have 10 full members who deserve to be there! fyi Rohan Ireland is the highest ranked non test playing nation now and ChandraKS what on earth are you on about the north Atlantic treaty organization for? only one nation is a full member of the icc and NATO (england) so as a Aussie myself how or why should the bcci "screw the living daylights" out of us???

  • Amy on July 6, 2008, 10:25 GMT

    England and her friends should be embarrassed that they have managed to squeeze Zimbabwe out of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. For ages we've been told that Chingoka & company are looting ZC coffers. First Pricewaterhousecoopers did the accounts and they were disputed. Then came another indigenous company and the findings were deemed fraudulent. Then the ICC brought in KPMG (SA) for a forensic audit which again failed to nail Chingoka. As much as I personally dislike the man, it's absolutely unfair to fix him when there is no evidence. That said, Mugabe is evil, yes, but why punish cricket? Mugabe's stealing of elections thru violence was just a godsend of pple who have for long wanted Zim chucked out of international cricket. It's a shame. It's not necessarily true that all the players who have left -- white & black -- it's becoz of Chingoka. I hope Britain and all other hypocrites look at their own political records, look at Pakistan, Bangladesh, SA (xenophobia) and kick em out of ICC.

  • E on July 6, 2008, 10:08 GMT

    I assume Jeff was trying to be ironic when he said that democracy was the most important thing. Is that democracy Mugabe-style, when you wipe out the opposition ahead of the election, or ZCU-style, when you remove all opponents before having an election. The board has killed cricket and made themselves rich. What, dear Jeff, is remotely democratic about that?

  • Jeff on July 6, 2008, 9:52 GMT

    I think Mr Williamson has forgotten the single most important concept of modern day world.


    This has nothing to do with what one Bloc thinks. He is a supreme master of spin - I believe this is an article on Cricketing issues. But reading this makes me think it is an anti Mugabe article with loads of conspiracy theory and very little evidence.

    I may not know much about Zimbabwe politics, but I am sane enough to remember different people have different opinions. ICC as any other organisation is practising Democracy! Please live with it - You win some, you lose some Mr. Williamson!


  • graham on July 6, 2008, 7:32 GMT

    ICC was right. The more dumb decisions they make like this, the quicker they will destry themselves.

  • Shane on July 6, 2008, 3:34 GMT

    This is a complete farce. The ICC are slowly but surely dragging cricket under. Power mad and a rule unto themselves. Talk of Iraq, etc is total rubbish. This situation is chalk and cheese compared to it and if you cannot see that then stop wasting other people's time by writing in on this subject. I used to look forward to cricket games so much. Now there is constant cricket. We are waterlogged with it as the ICC and various controlling bodies try to drag as much money into their coffers as possible. These moronic decisions from the ICC is only a very small step from pressure being put on players to fix results. Pressure from boards or ICC members to determine results so deals can be done in the boardroom. If this situation continues for another few years or so, I see the beginning of the death of International cricket. I think it is that bad.

  • Adrian on July 6, 2008, 1:57 GMT

    As far as I am concerned, as soon as Henry Olonga was forced to flee the country, Zimbabwe's position as an international cricketing country should have ended. Such behaviour, which was later followed up by most of their best cricketers (especially including Heath Streak) being targetted was abysmal. The fact that this behaviour mirrors what is going on in the country is why they need to be banned. Sri Lanka had a civil war yet it didn't greatly affect their cricketers - they even had Muttiah Muralitharan enter as a Tamil in spite of the civil war involving them. This situation is the same kind of situation as apartheid South Africa. Had South Africa during apartheid picked black cricketers, or picked cricketers based on talent rather than race, all would be fine. If Zimbabwe was picking based on talent, all would be fine. The problem is that they are not. The problem is that they are mixing politics with cricket. This is why their political situation is relevant.

  • Brendan on July 6, 2008, 1:35 GMT

    Sigh......no matter how much we try to divorce politics from the state of the game, someone brings it up again, and then someone automatically declares racial overtones against the 'White' countries.

    The fact still remains that grassroots cricket in Zimbabwe is no exsistant, and that is the problem that needs to be adressed. Why is it a crime to reduce Zimbabwe's status when it is clear that they are no longer a force at international level and will not be as long as there is no money in the game?

    I implore people to think on that basis rather than that of racism or political links.

  • Chinmay on July 5, 2008, 21:33 GMT

    Agree that Zimbabwe should be stripped off their test status and their place up the ICC high table unless they improve. But, on purely cricketing terms, they should be allowed to play in Qualification matches for T20 WC as an associate country. Would ECB risk that?

  • No featured comments at the moment.