Why ECB are looking for a political escape clause

By Trevor Chesterfield | April 13, 2010

(From Tour Diaries 2003/04 – Colombo – January 15 2004)

Durban – As purveyors of hidebound establishment connivance, you can guarantee that the England and Wales Cricket Board are still combing the fine print for an escape clause over the Zimbabwe tour later this year. About the only thing in their favour at this stage is that they have sensibly delayed until early March further examination of the Zimbabwe tour set for October and November.

Reasons behind what amounts to an ECB volte-face is to get the views of other Test nations at the International Cricket Council’s executive board meeting in Auckland New Zealand on March 9 and 10. After all their verbal sabre rattling over the tour issue of the southern African nation, it is not so much a climb down as taking a cooler, long term view of what is already a highly complex issue and one which by September could easily be resolved.

In a statement welcoming ECB decision, the International Cricket Council’s president Ehsan Mani said the Auckland meeting would provide the opportunity for the ECB to raise their concerns directly with the other Test-playing countries.

‘During our meeting earlier this week (with the ECB) I suggested to David Morgan that an appropriate forum for this issue would be the ICC Executive Board Meeting in March. I am pleased they have accepted this suggestion and welcome this decision today,’ Mani said when asked to comment.

‘The international cricket community is an important stakeholder for the ECB. Given that there are several months before England is due to visit Zimbabwe, this meeting provides the opportunity for the ECB to put forward their position and listen to the views of this community.

‘The ICC will continue to ensure that the parties involved in this issue at the international level are treated fairly and equally and assist the parties in exploring all available options,’ he said.’

Being the official view of the international body it is perhaps a touch more comforting to long-term tour prospects despite concerns from such quarters as those of the England team players. Top-order batsman, Mark Butcher expressed his thoughts about how discussions of the Zimbabwe issue were clouding preparation for the West Indies tour.

This is why initials such as the ECB are enough to explain po-faced incompetence. This time though, the anagram could also suggest England’s Clumsy Bunglers, linked as it is to a system that is as feudal as the Stalinist-style government of iniquitous knee-jerker’s Robert Mugabe has slapped into place. Naturally the forelock tugging ECB ran to an already discredited government wanting a way out of the Zimbabwe tour.

As smug as is the unctuous Tony Blair and his cronies, whitewashed by an establishment peer appointed by Blair (so what were we to expect) and who sullied the name Hutton, the ECB debate the Zimbabwe tour question ten months in advance was fraught with side issues. This poses again the question of why the decision to debate the issue now and not wait until the muddy waters over the Zimbabwe tour are clearer.

The ECB have done their grovelling best to follow the Tony Cronies ruling over Zimbabwe. Jack Straw hurriedly despatched a home office memo to the ECB saying that the ‘humanitarian situation as well as the political position has deteriorated further’. These are the sort of words that David Morgan and his ECB chums had want to hear. You can imagine, at the time, their jumps of glee.

It is well known how the old Raj masters have long reneged on promises. Morgan’s comments, when taken at face value last March, always lacked sincerity. One of the observations made by this website and repeated in the Indian Express of Morgan’s promise was how it was ‘uttered with the spurious arrogance of someone who, when the tour is about take place will find an excuse not to go.’ Then emerged earlier in the week an ECB plan designed to fob off Zimbabwe with a million pounds compensation fee. What a truckload of elephant manure.

What it showed was how neither Morgan nor the ECB can be trusted. Discussing the issue is flawed and displays ECB insensitivity and lack of foresight. By the time the tour was to place, Mugabe might have gone into exile, so to suggest the ECB are willing to pay £1-million to buy off Zimbabwe satisfies no one. Another thought was that alternate venue should be found; perhaps Kenya. There is a precedent here: Pakistan played a Test series against Australia in Sri Lanka and Sharjah in 2002 after security fears. As the two teams were in Colombo after the ICC Champions Trophy event it made sense.

As it is Cricket Australia are monitoring the security factor in Zimbabwe and should safety arrangements meet their approval, Ricky Ponting and the Australians are quite happy to play in Zimbabwe; the same for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It showed up the ECB as being woefully disorganised and deceitful.

The ECB were to have studied at what The Times (London) says is a 17-page report submitted by Des Wilson, the former vice-chairman of the Sports Council, which it is said was to have influences the board’s management committee over the tour. The paper was expected to highlight how moral and political reasons should be considered as well as those of player safety.

‘The safety and security of a touring party can in today’s circumstances no longer be the only factor in deciding whether or not to proceed with a controversial tour,’ ran The Times report. ‘Can we tour this country knowing what we do about its stance on human rights and the suffering of its people?’

As the report was drawn up two months ago and the country’s political situation is decidedly fluid, it seems like a good excuse for them not wanting to tour and go straight to South Africa instead. Or if as it has been suggested, why are England bothered to tour any country if safety reasons are a problem? In South Africa they hijack and rob with impunity and it doesn’t matter who you are such are the organised crime rings.

As it is the ECB remained non-committal of Butcher’s comments where he urges the board ‘not to allow the controversy over the proposed tour to Zimbabwe to have a negative impact on the forthcoming Test series in the West Indies’. Just how the ECB are going to do that is another matter
England captain Michael Vaughan as well as Butcher and the other fourteen team members are due to head for the Caribbean on February 25. Butcher suggested there is concern that the preparations are being undermined by the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the tour of Zimbabwe in October. Most likely such concerns will shelved.

’The ECB and the government are trying to pre-empt any disasters like those that happened last time with the guys waiting to play in the World Cup,’ said Butcher. ‘With a bit of luck we can go off and concentrate on playing a series in the West Indies and it will be taken care of back here.’

Butcher’s concern reflected on what could be a repeat of the drawn-out process of last year when players were consulted before the final decision not to play the World Cup match against Zimbabwe. A decision not to play in Harare directly affected not just England’s World Cup 2003 chances. There was also the matter of what was seen as the ECB and the players ultimately bowing to the demands of Tony’s Cronies. It would have been interesting had England played Zimbabwe, won that game, gone on to the Super Sixes and, by some miracle, later won the World Cup. Would they have been treated with the same boring outpouring which was given to the side which won a totally minor event in Australia?
Probably not. Exported as it was by the Raj and long before the muddied oafs of this world were given and form of life, it is too traditional for Blair’s kitsch mind.

Naturally the ECB have short memories. They cost their side a place in advancing in last year’s World Cup and this year they were on about waving a chequebook under Peter Chingoka’s nose to try and salvage their conscience. It is a disreputable state of affairs by the so-called custodians of the game in England.

(From Tour Diaries 2003/04 – as appeared in thewicket.com – Colombo – January 15 2004)

©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
(For reasons of copyright, permission is required from the author and/or webmaster/editor of islandcricket.lk for publication).

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