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Players resigned to a future outside Zimbabwe

While Malcolm Speed was being given the cold shoulder by the board of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, he did meet with some of the rebel players during his 36 hours in Harare. The talks, described as amicable, remained private, but by the time he left what was clear was that the standoff between the board and the players was no closer to a resolution.

The rebels remain unimpressed by last Friday's statement from the ZCU giving them another 21 days to return to work, seeing it as little more than a face-saving exercise brought about by fears that the board had acted illegally by dismissing them in the first place.

If anything, the players' attitude has hardened. They still insist that Heath Streak should be reinstated as captain, the board is equally adamant that Tatenda Taibu, his successor, is there to stay. Asked whether they would be prepared to compromise, Grant Flower, the spokesman for the players said: "I'm not. Our captain [Streak] might be, but I think he'd be on his own."

Flower added that he feared that he, and most of the other rebels, had played their last matches for Zimbabwe. And he admitted to having grave concerns for the game's future there. "With more experience the young guys in the team will become better players, but that will take a long while," he said. "But I don't know if there are enough good players in this country to keep the system going to be honest."

Although they are continuing to train, many of the rebels appear to have accepted that their careers in Zimbabwe are over and are looking for employment abroad. Sean Ervine left last week - ironically bumping into the Australian side in transit at Johannesburg airport - and is pondering playing for Western Australia. Streak has been linked with Tasmania, although he is unlikely to do anything until all hope of a deal with the board has disappeared. Others are considering offers to play club cricket.

As for Taibu, he remains at the centre of the dispute but very much distanced from it. He has got on with the job of captaining the decimated Zimbabwe side, and has led by example and with great dignity. But while he is good enough to play international cricket, he is leading a team which clearly isn't.

"Obviously it has been tough, but I'm very lucky to have a bunch of young guys who are willing to represent their country," he said. Asked whether he thought the Tests should go ahead, he said that was a decision for the ICC. But he added: "It's disturbing ... it would be disappointing for me because the Australians are the world champions and my boys need to play them to improve."