London: England and Wales Cricket Board chief Tim Lamb said on Thursday that the British government had left the team in a “no-win” position following calls for the boycott of its World Cup match in Zimbabwe.
He also indicated that their failure to offer compensation if England pulled out of their match against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13 meant the match was likely to go ahead.
In a statement issued after a meeting with Sports Secretary Tessa Jowell, Lamb said he was “disappointed” by the government’s stance.
However, Lamb rejected government claims that the ECB had longstanding knowledge of their policy, saying it was only “late in the day” that the position had been made clear to the board.
Lamb, who agreed that the ultimate decision about England’s participation “technically rested” with the ECB, not the government, said of the meeting: “We had a firm and open exchange of views, but are disappointed with the outcome.”
“If we sacrifice this match it will, in effect, be at the government’s request — and for the wider national interest.
“We don’t understand therefore the government’s refusal to compensate us out of the national purse for any consequential losses we incur. These losses could damage cricket enormously.
“We are also disappointed that government ministers waited until very late in the day to tell us that they did not want us to play this match against Zimbabwe.
However, Lamb was contradicted by government minister Robin Cook who told the House of Commons on Thursday that: “As far back as early July the ECB was advised the government would not wish the team to go to Zimbabwe.”
Meanwhile, in Harare, police are investigating whether the recent murder of an Australian tourist was carried out by individuals trying to make Zimbabwe look bad ahead of the World Cup.
Peter Edward Stafford, 27, an engineer from Adelaide, was stabbed to death on Saturday as he walked through the rain forest at Victoria Falls, the main tourist attraction in north-eastern Zimbabwe. No arrests have yet been made.
Meanwhile, Peter Chingoka, head of Zimbabwe Cricket Union, said the local cricket administration deplored the killing as a criminal act.
He also welcomed signs that English cricketers would press on with their World Cup match, arguing the security situation was “under control”.
However, fresh security concerns in Zimbabwe could yet allow the ICC to re-schedule six World Cup matches.
Lamb said if the security situation worsened, the ICC had made it clear it could shift the matches.
“Ministers and the Foreign Office have made it clear to us that there is a possibility of a deteriorating situation.”
“If that happens the ICC have made it quite clear on the record that they may revisit their decision to play the matches.”
Crowe in ICC team
New Zealand team manager Jeff Crowe and a security adviser of the country will be part of an ICC delegation to check security arrangements in Kenya for the World Cup starting next month, adds a report from Auckland