Zimbabwe visa problems only half the story
Zimbabwe's failure to participate in the CLICO Under 15 International Championship appears not only to have been because of problems with visas, as has been the story in general circulation.
A source inside Zimbabwe Cricket has told Cricinfo that senior board officials told junior cricket co-ordinators that the trip would not happen as long ago as January when the invitation originally arrived.
At that time, the organisers told ZC that all costs in the Caribbean would be met by them, and they would also pay US$10,000 towards flights. In late February, ZC contacted the organisers and asked for an increased contribution towards the travel costs, and the sum offered was raised to US$15,000.
On March 3, the organisers received an email from ZC to the effect that the trip was not possible because of "circumstances". This was more than six weeks before they were due to travel. After discussions, ZC changed its mind and 24 hours later confirmed their participation while for their part, the organisers agreed to meet the full air fares from South Africa, leaving the board only needing to fund the flight from Harare to Johannesburg.
However, it is unclear why the visa applications were not submitted at that time as it appears that the British embassy were not contacted by telephone until the first week of April, almost four weeks later. In response to an general query, a board official was advised that any visas for individuals who had not visited the UK, USA or EU in the previous two years had to be handled in Pretoria and, as a result, there was not enough time to process the applications.
It was, nevertheless, widely reported that the visas had been turned down but this has since been strenuously denied by embassy officials as no formal applications were ever submitted.
Subsequent to being told this, ZC contacted the organisers and advised of "issues" with the visas, suggesting an alternative route via Frankfurt rather than London. The costs of that would have been an additional US$30,000 and that was beyond the tournament budgets and so was declined. Malaysia, who had been put on standby after growing concerns among the organisers, agreed to step in at short notice.
The ZC source was critical of the outcome. "Any board that's for cricket development would jump at the opportunity of sending a side to such a tournament. Malaysia, an emerging cricket nation, did that on short notice, but our board was not prepared for such action."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo