South Africa cut links with Zimbabwe

Pressure from its own cricketers appears to have forced Cricket South Africa into an embarrassing about-turn regarding cricketing links with Zimbabwe.

Norman Arendse, CSA's president, and other senior administrators, especially Ray Mali, the ICC president, have adopted a policy of unwavering support for Zimbabwe Cricket. But last week a number of players made clear that the deteriorating social environment in Zimbabwe meant they were no longer willing to play against sides from there.

"In the light of the worsening situation in Zimbabwe, CSA has reviewed its position in relation to Zimbabwe cricket," Arendse said on Monday. "We have decided to suspend our bi-lateral agreements with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union until further notice.

"In the past, CSA has defended Zimbabwe cricket against heavy odds, but the general situation in Zimbabwe has now made this untenable.

"We will continue to comply with the ICC's Future Tours Programme regarding Zimbabwe, as we are bound to this programme as a full member of the ICC. However, CSA will suspend its bi-lateral agreements with ZC, which includes development and administrative programmes, and the participation of Zimbabwe teams in CSA's domestic competitions."

"This was Cricket SA's decision and was not brought about by any direct pressure from the players," South Africa Cricketers' Association spokesman Tony Irish said. "However, the vast majority of players, if not all of them, support this decision from a moral point of view as they don't want to be associated with what is going on in Zimbabwe. The players association commends C SA on the decision"

The news will be a hammer blow to the Zimbabwe board as the only really meaningful cricket they have been able to play of late has been in South Africa's domestic competitions.

As things stand, Zimbabwe have no domestic games scheduled until their new season starts in March 2009, and the only international fixtures arranged in the next year are home and away series against Sri Lanka.

The timing of the announcement could not be worse, coming on the eve of the ICC annual conference in Dubai when, in theory, Zimbabwe could have asked to be readmitted to Test cricket. That idea is now as distant as at any stage in the last three years.