Gulf & Middle East
Australian government's decision unfortunate, says Speed
May 13, 2007 - 7:30:25 PM

Dubai, May 13 - International Cricket Council - chief executive Malcolm Speed Sunday said that the decision by the Australian government to ban its players from touring Zimbabwe in September as 'unfortunate for Zimbabwe's cricketers and supporters'.

'It's not the role of the ICC to make political judgments ... that's for politicians,' said Speed while reacting to Sunday's announcement by Australian Prime Minister John Howard to ban the national team from touring Zimbabwe.

'The ICC is a sporting organisation and our role is to ensure that the game of cricket is played wherever possible.'

'It is unfortunate for Zimbabwe's cricketers and supporters, all of whom need exposure to top quality cricket in order to develop as players and to encourage future generations to take up the sport,' said Speed.

'As for whether the matches can take place in a neutral venue, given the choice between that and those matches not taking place at all we would obviously prefer them to be played,' he said.

'That will be for the two boards to work out but we would encourage them to look at all options.'

The ICC's policy has been consistent since 2004 as, under the terms of the Future Tours Program Agreement, if the government of one of the members refuses 'to grant a consent, exemption, approval or clearance or imposes any restriction or prohibition' on its team's to tour another country, these circumstances constitute acceptable non-compliance.

'In this instance it appears the Australian government has acted in this way,' said Speed.

The Australian government has banned its national cricket team's tour of Zimbabwe saying it would provide an enormous propaganda boost for the 'grubby dictator' Robert Mugabe.

Howard said that his government had taken the decision out of Cricket Australia's hands not to tour there in September.

He said it was not fair to leave a foreign policy decision of this magnitude with sportsmen and it was only right for his government to accept the responsibility.

This is not the first time a cricket tour has cancelled. New Zealand also cancelled a tour of Zimbabwe in December 2005.

Zimbabwe has come under the international spotlight of late over the political situation, which deteriorated two months ago when security forces beat up opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as they thwarted a planned prayer rally in the capital.

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