Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Disgraced Zimbabwe on the Brink; but the Country's Younger Players Deserve Sympathy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Disgraced Zimbabwe on the Brink; but the Country's Younger Players Deserve Sympathy

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

IN one wretchedly frustrating way, England's players have not made much progress over the past 21 months. They've simply moved from a hotel in Cape Town to another in Johannesburg while waiting to learn whether an unwanted trip to Harare should go ahead.

As far as cricket is concerned of course, there is little similarity between today and February 2003 when the World Cup was plunged into crisis.

England, now under Michael Vaughan's captaincy, have won 10 of their last 11 Tests and started to make forward moves in the one-day game as well. But, when it comes to the politics of the sport, it's the Z-word that continues to haunt them.

This time, though, perhaps we should feel sorriest for the young Zimbabwe cricketers who must have woken this morning wondering whether, through no fault of their own, there is a future for them as international players.

England's decision to remain in South Africa last night, rather than catch their flight to Harare, meant that the 12-day, fivematch tour was close to being cancelled following the host country's refusal to admit a batch of British sports journalists.

But even if the trip could be saved, Vaughan will not be alone today in wondering whether playing cricket against Zimbabwe is worth all the bother - at least while President Robert Mugabe and his henchmen are in power.

The International Cricket Council hierarchy has long advocated a policy of keeping politics out of sport - even when dubiously elected politicians clearly rule the sport, as in Harare and Bulawayo.

But Mugabe's decision to meddle in a tour that was only going ahead anyway on a wing and a prayer seems to have tried, and maybe exhausted, the ICC's patience.

Cricket's ruling body had to act just a few months ago to protect the integrity of Test cricket. …

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