Australian banned from touring Zimbabwe May 13, 2007

Speed describes Howard's decision as 'unfortunate'

Cricinfo staff

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Malcolm Speed: 'It's not the role of the ICC to make political judgments ... that's for politicians' © Getty Images

Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive, described the decision by the Australian government to ban its players from touring Zimbabwe in September as "unfortunate for Zimbabwe's cricketers and supporters".

Reacting to Sunday's announcement by John Howard, Australia's prime minister, Speed said that "it's not the role of the ICC to make political judgments ... that's for politicians". He continued: "The ICC is a sporting organisation and our role is to ensure that the game of cricket is played wherever possible."

He explained that the ICC's policy had been consistent and that if the government of one of the members refuses "to grant a consent, exemption, approval or clearance or imposes any restriction or prohibition" on its team to tour another country, then that is an acceptable reason not to honour a commitment to tour. "In this instance it appears the Australian government has acted in this way," Speed said.

"It is unfortunate for Zimbabwe's cricketers and supporters, all of whom need exposure to top-quality cricket in order to develop as players and to encourage future generations to take up the sport."

Speed was non committal on whether the matches could be played at a neutral venue. "Given the choice between that and those matches not taking place at all we would obviously prefer them to be played," he said.

"That will be for the two boards to work out but we would encourage them to look at all options. From an ICC perspective, we will work with Zimbabwe Cricket and our members to try to ensure the game there gets the support it needs in order to continue at this difficult time."