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No evidence of racism in Zimbabwe cricket

Ehsan Mani satisfied with findings of report

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Ehsan Mani: satisfied with findings of report © Getty Images
The ICC has found no evidence to support claims of racism in the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, following the conclusion of an inquiry, instigated in the wake of allegations made by 15 white "rebel" players, who claimed that they had been driven out of the game in their country.
"We do not find any evidence of racism within Zimbabwe cricket," the panel decided, and that conclusion has been accepted by the ICC, which believes that the inquiry was able to get to the root of the issues in Zimbabwe, despite the early end to the oral hearing phase, after the lawyers for the players and the board failed to agree on whether testimony should be heard in front of members of the ZCU board.
The inquiry was conducted by India's Solicitor General, Goolam Vahanvati, and the South African High Court judge Steven Majiedt, and their long-awaited 73-page report was presented to the ICC's executive board in Lahore today.
The two panel members acknowledged that there had been a "complete breakdown" in the relationship between the board and the players, but believed nonetheless that they had been successful in reading between the lines of the affair. "We had every reason to believe that we would be able to ascertain the truth," says the report. "We believe that we have been able to do so."
Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC, described the report as a "vital piece of work", adding that it should prompt people to reflect carefully on the allegations that have been made. "These allegations ... invoked one of the most serious and damaging claims that can be made against an individual or an institution," said Mani. " I believe that anyone who has made these allegations ... is now obligated to study this report and to respect and take heed of the findings."
The report attempts to lay the blame for the affair at the feet of the former captain, Heath Streak, who threatened to resign back in April if his demands were not met. The ZCU, the report claims, had no option but to take his threat at face value, thereby setting off the chain of events that led to the 15 rebels withdrawing their services in support of their captain, in the mistaken belief that he had been sacked.
"In giving the board an ultimatum that he would resign if his demands were not accepted, he [Heath Streak] put his own future on the line," the report finds. "Streak obviously did not anticipate (and was not advised) that given the ultimatum that he would retire by April 5, 2004, the board would take the position that it had no option but to reject his demands and accept his retirement. They did precisely that."
As to the allegations of institutional racism in the ZCU, the report found that their policies for the integration of cricket in Zimbabwe were based on sound principles and were generally accepted by all stakeholders in Zimbabwe cricket. However, there were some aspects of selection and the functioning of some ZCU directors which needed to be "seriously addressed".
In conclusion, the report made eight recommendations, most of which centred around issues of selection and integration. In particular, the establishment of a players' association is high on the agenda, so that future grievances can be channelled more effectively.