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India, South Africa may ‘intervene’
- Fall-back option being talked of within the ICC

Calcutta, May 17: The International Cricket Council (ICC), which is working “behind the scenes” to end the face-off in Zimbabwe, may request India and South Africa to ‘intervene’.

That, one understands, is a “fall-back option” if the ICC’s own effort comes a cropper. Significantly, chief executive Malcolm Speed has flown to Harare for a dialogue with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).

[Strangely, however, Speed told the Media he wasn’t in the Zimbabwe capital to “broker a deal.” He added: “I’m here with the agreement of the ZCU that I will not mediate.”]

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) brass have an “excellent relationship” with the ZCU and their ‘intervention’ could prove fruitful.

Zimbabwe, it may be recalled, was a co-host of the last (February-March 2003) World Cup, a tournament initially awarded exclusively to South Africa, and that event brought the two countries’ cricket bodies closer than ever before.

Incidentally, UCBSA chief Percy Sonn is going to take over as the ICC president 13 months from now.

As for the Zimbabwe-India connection, the ties stretch back many years and it’s well known that BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya is on “very good terms” with ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka. Dalmiya, of course, is a former ICC president.

Moreover, Zimbabwe’s first Test, almost 12 years ago, was against India. It ended in a draw, but the home side won admirers for a handsome debut.

Dalmiya wasn’t available for comment, but the next day or so could see ICC chief Ehsan Mani requesting an ‘intervention’.

Mani himself recently met Chingoka in London and emphasised that the face-off with the rebels ‘captained’ by Heath Streak was “threatening the integrity of cricket.”

As sources put it, the ICC respects the right of affiliates to choose the national captain and appoint a selection-committee-of-choice, but this face-off “simply has to end.”

Besides a huge devaluation in the quality of cricket, there will be a substantial decrease in the commercial worth of every series featuring a second-string Zimbabwe.

In any case, even at full strength, Zimbabwe have never figured in the hottest bracket.

The face-off began on April 2 when Streak was sacked as captain after he questioned the (controversial) selection committee’s credentials. Fourteen players, all of them also White, came out in his support and made themselves unavailable for selection.

The ZCU, viewed by many as an ‘extension’ of Robert Mugabe’s government, retaliated by terminating the contracts of all 15.

Last Friday, though, the ZCU appeared to soften somewhat by giving Streak and Co. a “further 21 days” to make themselves available for the national squad.

Besides Streak’s reinstatement (a strict “no-no” for Chingoka) and changes in the selection committee (already partially effected), the rebels want a probe into “transgressions” by some ZCU members.

They have been calling for arbitration, whereas the ZCU has thus far been prepared for mediation only.

The countdown to the most crucial hours, perhaps, has begun.

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