Powerful India will oppose any moves to throw strife-torn Zimbabwe out of world cricket and is counting on the rest of the Asian bloc for support, a senior official told AFP on Monday.
"There is no reason to remove Zimbabwe," Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah told AFP as the International Cricket Council (ICC) debated the African country's future at its annual meetings in Dubai.
Cricket boards of South Africa and England last week suspended bilateral ties with Zimbabwe in protest at the deteriorating political situation in Harare, where Robert Mugabe has been controversially re-elected as president.
The ICC's decision-making executive board will take up the issue this week after the British government demanded that Zimbabwe be excluded from next year's Twenty20 World Championships in England.
The support of seven of the ICC's 10 full members, which include Zimbabwe, is required to suspend a nation from world cricket, but that appears unlikely given India's stance.
India, the sport's economic powerhouse, is almost certain to be backed by the three other Asian Test nations -- Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- on keeping Zimbabwe in the ICC.
The Asian bloc usually votes together on major cricket issues.
It was not immediately clear if Australia, the West Indies and New Zealand will back England and South Africa on Zimbabwe's exclusion.
"We understand England's position because their government wants Zimbabwe out," said Shah. "Even our tour commitments are determined by government advice.
"But we will back Zimbabwe to stay in the ICC."
If Zimbabwe retains its full membership, England risks losing the right to host the lucrative Twenty20 worlds in June next year if the British government denies visas to the Zimbabwean cricketers.
Zimbabwe has not played Test cricket since hosting India in September, 2005 after being told by the ICC to improve its playing standards.
But it retains an active one-day team which takes part in the World Cup.
Senior Zimbabwe cricket chief Ozias Bvute, meanwhile, questioned why several other boards were taking a hard-line position against his country when no other sporting organisation has opted for such a stance.
"We (Zimbabwe) are a full member of FIFA (football's governing body) and are currently participating in a World Cup qualifying campaign," Bvute told BBC's Test match special.
"We have a swimming programme which has produced Kirsty Coventry, a recent winner in the world championships.
"So it would be strange that the only sport to take action on so-called current worries is cricket when all the other world sporting bodies have not taken that stance."