|Streak is back to square one
Harare: Zimbabwe’s two-Test series against world champions Australia was called off on Friday, just 24 hours before it was due to start. The Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) also sacked all 15 rebel players with immediate effect.
[That the ZCU was left with no choice, but to defer the Tests, was reported by The Telegraph on Friday.]
The ZCU and Cricket Australia (CA) jointly agreed at a meeting in Harare to adjourn the matches to a later date. But owing to Australia’s tight schedule, the games are highly unlikely to be played for at least four years.
The joint decision came two hours before an International Cricket Council (ICC) teleconference, which looked likely to strip the series of its Test status. The teleconference was called off.
Three one-day Internationals, originally set for June, are being brought forward and will be played in Harare on May 25, 27 and 29. “The ZCU and CA have agreed to adjourn the Test matches to a date to be fixed and have requested the ICC executive board to endorse this agreement at its June meeting,” according to a statement by CA chairman Bob Merriman.
“Naturally we are disappointed that the Test matches could not be played, but given the circumstances that confronted both boards and in the interests of Test cricket, we have come to this agreement,” Merriman said.
In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said: “That’s a very understandable decision. It’s a matter now for the ICC to determine what now happens.”
Australia captain Ricky Ponting said the players were frustrated. He said the players had been warned on Thursday not to walk the streets of Harare following a demonstration against a white MP.
“We know its okay to go and play golf as a group and that’s what we are off to do now that our training session has been cancelled,” Glenn McGrath added.
Meanwhile, the sacked 15 have referred their dispute to the ICC, the players’ lawyer said on Friday.
“The ZCU lawyer called me to say the players are all fired, and that they must return their cars to the ZCU,” players’ lawyer Chris Venturas said. “So most of them will be catching buses or be on bicycles from Saturday.”
Stuart Carlisle, a rebel player, said: “The ball is now in ICC’s court. We have asked for the dispute committee to be formed and Malcolm Speed will get back to us next week to say whether our case is strong enough. If the ICC wants to save Zimbabwe cricket, they will certainly want to set up the committee.”
ICC President Ehsan Mani confirmed that the ruling body had received the request.
“We received yesterday from the lawyer of the 15 players a request to submit a dispute to the ICC dispute process,” Mani said in London. “Should this matter go before a hearing under the ICC Disputes Resolution process, I would think that it would be several months before this process would be finalised,” Mani added.
ICC also welcomed the ZCU decision. Mani said the decision would help ensure the integrity of Test cricket and did not threaten Zimbabwe’s Test status although that could be discussed at the ICC meetings at the end of June in London.
“I am pleased that the ZCU and CA have agreed to postpone these two matches to a date yet to be fixed. This course of action was first suggested by the ICC two weeks ago and protects the integrity of Test cricket,” he said in a statement.
The Zimbabwe squad that was thrashed by Sri Lanka recently has been retained for the three ODIs against Australia next week.
Tatenda Taibu (captain), Dion Ebrahim, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Brendan Taylor, Elton Chigumbura, Alester Maregwede, Douglas Hondo, Tinashe Panyangara, Mark Vermeulen, Tawanda Mupariwa, Mluleki Nkala, Vusumuzi Sibanda, Edward Rainsford, Waddington Mwayenga. (AGENCIES)