Speed: 'We don't make decisions on political grounds' August 25, 2005

ICC unlikely to act against Zimbabwe

Cricinfo staff

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Malcolm Speed: 'We don't take decisions based on political judgments' © Getty Images
Despite coming under pressure from the governments of Australia, New Zealand and Britain, the ICC is expected to ignore requests to take action against Zimbabwe when it meets this week in Dubai.

The three governments have called on the ICC to ban Zimbabwe because of the country's dreadful human-rights record which culminated in the controversial slum clearance programme Operation Murambatsvina - which translates as "drive out rubbish" - which has left 700,000 people homeless.

Last week, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, wrote to Ehsan Mani and Malcolm Speed, the ICC's president and chief executive, urging them to take action, but yesterday Speed hinted that nothing was likely to change.

"For the past three years at least, we've been asked that players be allowed not to comply with their agreements with Zimbabwe, or that cricket not be played in Zimbabwe," Speed said. "The ICC position has been consistent: we say to governments that we don't take decisions based on political judgments. We expect governments to do that."

"We do respect their views, but we don't make decisions on political grounds and neither are our decisions on playing cricket based on the human rights record of a country. I haven't had a chance to speak with our president [Ehsan Mani] but our stand on such matters is pretty clear. It's up to the teams to decide whether they honour the commitments. If the countries want to play it's fine and if they don't we don't interfere in the foreign policy of any government."

Speed added that the 10 ICC members - which include Zimbabwe - were "comfortable" with play proceeding in the absence of an outright government ban.

Such bans, however, are not likely because the three countries who have raised concerns would have to change their laws to enable them to prevent their own nationals from traveling to Zimbabwe. New Zealand, however, have indicated that they will refuse Zimbabwe's players entry to the country should they try to fulfill their scheduled tour in December. Despite New Zealand Cricket announcing that the tour had been cancelled, as recently as the weekend, Zimbabwe Cricket officials claimed to know nothing about that.

The ICC's position is unlikely to be changed on cricket grounds either, even though Zimbabwe's on-field performances of late have verged on the embarrassing. Yesterday's humiliating defeat against New Zealand was the latest in a long line of drubbings which many have claimed is tarnishing the integrity of the international game.