Vantage point

Friday, February 14, 2003


After my earlier post that dealt with Warne and the Aussies, now I want to talk about the weird behaviour of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Two days ago, England were supposed to play their first match against Zimbabwe in Harare, but they did not go there, citing "security reasons". For months now, the British government has been pushing ICC to relocate the matches from Zimbabwe, because "President Mugabe rigged elections and is not the rightful ruler of the country". I don't get it. Have I been reading the wrong history textbooks? I was under the impression that the British empire came to an end decades ago and all these countries are free. What business is it of Tony Blair's what is happening in Zimbabwe? I am not saying Mugabe is a mighty nice chap, but is Zimbabwe the only country in the world which is ruled by someone not chosen by its people? What about Saudi Arabia? Why don't the Brits break off relations with them?

Anyway, if the Brits have a problem with Zimbabwe and their policy, it is their prerogative. I am no one to sit here and dictate British foreign policy. But if they believe in something, they should be willing to make sacrifices for it. For years India opposed the Apartheid administration in South Africa and pledged not to have any diplomatic or sporting ties with them. India took this so seriously that in 1975 (or was it 74?) when we reached the Davis Cup finals, we forfeited just because the opponents were South Africa. We never went whining to the organisers saying that the Davis Cup be split equally or something like that. If the Englishmen want to make a statement about opposing Mugabe, then rather than not shaking hands with him or something, they should abstain from playing and forfeit the 4 points. Like the New Zealand team, which was scared of playing in Kenya, conceded the 4 points from that match (there is an outside chance of Kenya making it to Super Six, way way outside chance, but it is there). But England are too greedy for that. They know that the chances of their beating India are pretty slim. Pakistan and Australia are beyond their scope. So if they concede the match to Zimbabwe, they are out of the World Cup. And they don't care that much about Mugabe's legitimacy.

So now they have come up with this bogey of "security issues" which is ridculous to say the least. As long as the ICC says the venue is safe, the ECB has no say on the matter. Following the precedent set in 1996, when WI and Australia forfeited their points from their matches in strife-torn Sri Lanka, the full points should be awarded to Zimbabwe. But the ICC is displaying signs of partisan behaviour already. The match was supposed to be 2 days ago, but the ICC allowed the English Cricket Board extra time to file a new appeal or something.

Now Zimbabwe says that they will not play the match outside their country and maybe even boycott their scheduled tour to England next year. South Africa may also refuse to tour England to show solidarity for the African cause.

I see no major problems with using sports as a means of politics because it is a reality of the world we live in. USA has done it, Russia has done it, Pakistan has done it and even India is doing it. But you certainly can't have your cake and eat it too, England.