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Barely a year after cutting ties with Zimbabwe, Cricket South Africa (CSA) has pledged to resume bilateral relations with the fraught country and support efforts to build a proficient Test team. While the ICC has yet to confirm this, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chief executive Ozias Bvute said that South Africa would resume close ties with his association.
"I can confirm that the suspension of the agreement we had with our neighbours, South Africa, has been lifted," said Bvute. "We only need to sit down to work out the modalities of putting into motion the support Cricket South Africa will assist us with."
ICC communications officer James Fitzgerald told the Mail & Guardian, "The [ICC] board was informed that both the Board of Control for Cricket in India and Cricket South Africa have offered playing and administrative support to Zimbabwe Cricket."
CSA spokesperson Kass Naidoo, however, was less forthcoming and said any policy issue regarding ZC would be discussed at the board level. "The ICC request is likely to be on the board's agenda at its next meeting in February, with other relevant decisions taken at the last ICC executive board meeting," she said.
CSA, under former president Norman Arendse, had cut off ties with Zimbabwe Cricket because of what Arendse termed was "the worsening situation in Zimbabwe". At the time the move was greeted with surprise as South Africa had been staunch supporters of Peter Chingoka and his board. The power-sharing agreement between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangarai, assuming that it holds, makes a restoration of relations all the more likely.
During the ICC board meeting in Perth last week, an ICC-appointed task team presented an interim report on the state of the game in Zimbabwe, who voluntarily stepped away from Tests in 2006. The team was headed by Julian Hunte, the president of the West Indies board, and included ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat. They visited Zimbabwe in November 2008 to inspect facilities, infrastructure and to speak to various stakeholders. The outcome was that Zimbabwe were still at least six months away from being ready for Tests again, but in reality that is likely to be much longer.
Bvute, however, felt otherwise. "Our timetable is in tandem with theirs [the ICC's]. I think it's a fair reflection of what's on the ground - we don't dispute that," he told AP. "Although we have seen improvements in the team's performance, it's however too early to say whether we are ready. It could be early, it could be not.
"We will endeavor to shorten the period. We obviously have programs set up to make that possible. That includes playing in leagues in other countries. I'm glad that the Indian board has been kind enough to allow us to participate in their league [the Deodhar Trophy in March]."
Bvute said that Zimbabwe, who beat Kenya 5-0 in a recent ODI series, were making progress. "It should be noted that Zimbabwe is a full member of the ICC and will continue to take part in ODIs under the Futures Tours Programs," Bvute said. "Then, with time, we should participate in all forms of the game. We are trying to quicken that process."