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Technical panel to decide England fate today
- ZIMBABWE VENUE SWITCH

Johannesburg: The World Cup technical committee will meet on Thursday to decide whether England’s match against Zimbabwe can be switched to South Africa, the ICC said on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe will refuse to play any of their matches if they are switched to South Africa, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) said late on Wednesday.

“Zimbabwe got the rights to host six group matches, and all teams must honour contractual obligations by playing those matches,” ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka said. “We will only go to South Africa for the Super Six stage,” he added.

England’s cricket board officially requested on Tuesday for the February 13 game to be moved from the strife-torn country because of mounting concerns over security.

“The meeting of the World Cup technical committee, to consider the England and Wales Cricket Board request to reschedule its match against Zimbabwe from Harare, will take place on Thursday afternoon in Cape Town,” the ICC said in a statement.

The committee comprises six men, but they can make a decision by majority vote, which is expected to happen in one session.

“The committee has a quorum of four and it can make a majority decision,” ICC spokesman Brendan McClements said.

Should the request be rejected, England would forfeit the match, a move that would leave them with only a slim chance of reaching the next round.

England or Zimbabwe, should the request be upheld, can appeal against the technical committee’s decision through any one of three judges from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, McClements added.

The technical committee is made up of ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, World Cup executive director Ali Bacher, ICC commercial manager Campbell Jamieson, ex-South African umpire Brian Basson, former India batsman Sunil Gavaskar and ex-West Indies pace bowler Michael Holding.

After weeks of hesitating, the ECB finally backed their players by calling on the ICC to move the Harare game, threatening to throw the tournament into turmoil.

NZ war cry not formal yet

On January 31 the New Zealand Cricket (NZC) executives met in Christchurch and decided that they will not play their match (versus Kenya) in Nairobi February 21. It was hailed as a “bold decision” by that country’s players’ body. Wednesday, surprisingly, ICC confirmed that NZC has, in fact, put in no formal request for their match to be switched to South Africa, with the world body.

That leaves the situation in chaos.

It may be recalled that the ECB has made their request formal with the ICC.

ICC spokesman Brendan McClements said: “There has been no application from New Zealand.”

They could appeal to the World Cup technical committee — as England have done in an attempt to have their match in Zimbabwe moved — or they take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), a body based in Lausanne and set up to deal with major sporting disputes. Time is running out, however, for the matter to go before that court.

Mandela request

Former South African President Nelson Mandela told England and New Zealand on Wednesday they should play their respective World Cup matches in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Mandela said players should follow the instructions of the ICC.

“If they say cricketers must go to Zimbabwe, must go to Kenya, that is what they must do,” he said. “If we refuse to follow what the international body says, we introduce chaos in cricket.”

World Cup organiser Ali Bacher is confident the tournament will be a “great security success”, but declined to comment on England’s request to have their Zimbabwe match moved for safety reasons.

“It would be wrong of me to even comment at this point in time until after the technical committee meeting has been concluded,” the World Cup’s executive director told SABC Radio news.

Meanwhile, South Africa government has slammed England for requesting the ICC to shift the venue of their match against Zimbabwe out of Harare. A spokesperson for the sports ministry said they could not understand why the ECB was making the call at such a late hour. (Agencies)

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