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Vote matters more, so let cricket die

In reality, Zimbabwe's pull out from the next year's T20 WC Cup in England is a move to safeguard the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) commercial interests, writes Anand Vasu.
Hindustan Times | By Anand Vasu, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 05, 2008 12:54 AM IST

An unholy compromise has been reached at the apex meeting of cricket's top administrators. Zimbabwe have pulled out of next year's Twenty20 World Cup in England in what their cricket board chief Peter Chingoka calls "the larger interests of the game". In reality, it is a move to safeguard the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) commercial interests which would have suffered an estimated blow of $20 million had the event been shifted out of England.

In return for agreeing to pull out of the Twenty20 event, Zimbabwe Cricket gets to retain full member status, and crucially, full funding, in excess of $10 million per year. Critically, Zimbabwe's full member status was never even discussed at the ICC meetings in Dubai.

What this essentially means is that two of the powerful parties embroiled in this issue - the BCCI and the ECB - walked away without getting singed, while the central issue of cricket in Zimbabwe got the worst possible deal. The ECB's concern that the World Twenty20 would be taken away from them, after their government made it clear they were unlikely to issue visas to Zimbabwe's cricketers, was eliminated, after the pullout. The BCCI, which wanted to be seen as supporting a member of its tight vote-bank, got its way.

Worst of all, those governing the game in Zimbabwe have been given the license to eat their cake and have it too. Already they were freed of the effort required to produce a Test team, hardly bother with their ODI side, and now they won't be playing the World Twenty20.

This means that an organisation that cannot maintain its cricket grounds, is unable to find fuel for tractors to prepare pitches, is occasionally incapable of supplying stumps and balls for matches, and does not even have scoresheets of its premier domestic competition, will continue to enjoy the patronage and funding that any other full member does. How they will now account for spending the money they receive - in the past the ZC officials have been creative accountants - is something we don't know yet.

From a cricketing perspective, this decision makes the least possible sense. Zimbabwe have not played Test cricket in almost three years. In the last 30 ODIs they have played over two years, Zimbabwe have managed only two wins. The one place they had success has been Twenty20.

The format lends itself to shocks and upsets and in the last World Twenty20 Zimbabwe stunned Australia, winning by five wickets.

If there was one way for the ICC to keep interest for cricket alive in Zimbabwe, it was to let them play Twenty20 cricket, while suspending them from other forms of the game. Until realities change on the ground - and there's nothing to suggest this will happen under the current regime - there can be little hope for improvement.

The ICC is the obvious target to hold responsible for this weak and unprincipled stand. But let's stop pretending the ICC is a bunch of administrators in a glass building in Dubai; it's a collection of the world's cricket bodies, led most volubly by the BCCI. If cricket in Zimbabwe is dead, then every cricket board - not just Chingoka and his friends - now have blood on their hands.

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