June 26, 2005
It is expected that the New Zealand government will ask Australia and Great Britain to support a call for the ICC to ban Zimbabwe from international cricket because of the Robert Mugabe regime's rapidly deteriorating human-rights record.
On Monday, the New Zealand cabinet meets, and one of the items high on the agenda will be whether to refuse to grant visas to the Zimbabwe team for their scheduled visit in December. Although New Zealand are due to travel to Zimbabwe in August, the government has ruled out a ban as it is not able to prevent its citizens from travelling abroad. But an entry ban would have the desired effect as well as enabling New Zealand Cricket to avoid any penalty from the ICC.
Phil Goff, the foreign minister, who has been outspoken on the issue, said that he will ask Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, and Alexander Downer, his Australian counterpart, to back his call to have Zimbabwe banned altogether. He is also believed to be discussing the situation with Martin Snedden, the New Zealand board's chief executive, who is in London for the annual ICC get together.
"Most of us don't want to see sport being used as a political weapon," Goff told the Sunday Star-Times. "But in some cases you just can't ignore sporting teams going to countries where this sort of thing is happening and pretend nothing is wrong. It is time the ICC showed some leadership on this issue.
"We need to make an approach to the ICC, saying surely there must be circumstances in which your affiliate members can be excused from their contractual obligations. No human being can ignore the atrocities that are going on in Zimbabwe today."
What began as a little local difficulty is again threatening to escalate into something more serious, and the subject of Zimbabwe is once again becoming a hot potato for the game's administrators.
The ICC is unlikely to shift from its well-worn policy that it can only become involved in the security of teams and officials and not the internal politicals of any country. But if the crisis in Zimbabwe becomes an international affair - and Africa is a hot topic at the moment - then that could mean the heat on cricket's administrators is racked up more than ever.
Adam Parore, the former New Zealand wicketkeeper, gave a possible taste of things to come when he told reporters that the tour was "a disaster waiting to happen," adding that the ICC was to blame for implementing a future tour programme "knowing damn well that half the countries involved in it are unsafe, involved in terrorism, harbouring terrorism, or have civil wars going on."