With the minds of the world’s intervening classes fully occupied elsewhere, Zimbabwe is now a problem too small for those who might otherwise have done something about it to be bothered with, yet still too big and difficult for anyone else to be able to handle. So, Robert Mugabe’s monstrous and murderous political machine will continue to churn its way through what remains of the country and its institutions.
If the anguish of the cricket world serves to draw some of whatever international attention is left over from Iraq to the anguish of Zimbabwe, then so much the better. Personally, I do not give a damn about cricket, or England cricket, or Timbuktooan cricket, as such. Cricket will stagger on, no matter how this Zimbabwe row plays out. But if cricket helps to keep Zimbabwe and its misgovernment in the headlines, then the more and more continuous is cricket’s anguish, the better.
Cricket-wise – and this is the new development in this particular bit of the story – the state of the Zimbabwean cricket team has become so disastrous that even the International Cricket Council has started to worry about it. Until now, the ICC has only been concerned with (a) money, and with (b) making England’s cricket administrators squirm, pretty much for the sheer fun of it (but also because of (a) money), by demanding that England send a touring team to Zimbabwe later this year, no matter what. But now, the Zimbabwe team is such an embarrassment, and the continuing schedule of so-called Test matches between the Zimbabwe also-playeds against Sri Lanka, and soon, even more embarrassingly, Australia (the best cricket team on earth just now), that even the ICC has realised that cricket as a whole is being, as sporting administrators like to say from time to time but usually only when someone cheats, Brought Into Disrepute. ICC administrators are thus inexorably being brought into personal contact with the people who now rule Zimbabwean cricket.
I do not know for sure what is going to happen any more than any one else knows for sure, but here, for what it is worth, is my guess about how events will now unfold. Since the people who now rule Zimbabwean cricket are thugs operating under the personal orders of Robert Mugabe, contact between the Mugabe Cricket Thugs and the ICC can only be a good thing, and all the better because it is potentially so newsworthy. I expect the ICC people to discover (as they already sort of know) that these Mugabe Cricket Thugs are indeed Thugs, and what is more that they are Mugabe Cricket Thugs whose word is worth nothing from one day to the next and with whom it is impossible to do coherent business of any kind. Robert Mugabe does not care about the ICC, any more than he cares about the rights and wrongs of murdering people, and the Mugabe Cricket Thugs know this. All that Mugabe now knows or cares about cricket is that some uppity white people (“rebels”) have been making a nuisance of themselves, and they must be taught a lesson, at no matter what cost to Zimbabwe.
Now some more damned foreigners are interfering in Zimbabwe, taking it upon themselves to tell Zimbabwe how to do things, and my guess is that they too will get a right messing around from the Mugabe Cricket Thugs, who are now far more terrified of Robert Mugabe’s wrath than of a little thing like Zimbabwe being threatened with expulsion from Test Match Cricket. So, such expulsion will be duly threatened. And then, when whatever deal has been made between the Mugabe Cricket Thugs and the ICC has been solemnly sworn to by the Mugabe Cricket Thugs and then welshed on within a few hours, Zimbabwe will be duly expelled from Test Match Cricket. The more humiliating, public, dramatic, acrimonious and downright unpleasant this process becomes, the better, because the more humiliating (etc.) that it is, the more it will broadcast the vileness of the Mugabe regime to the world, and more to the point to parts of the world which have until now regarded England’s imperial past as more important than Zimbabwe’s mass murderous present. If the many cricket-lovers of India (which is a lot of people) could be persuaded, perhaps as a result of a slanging match between one of the Mugabe Cricket Thugs and one of India’s ICC reps, to decide that Mugabe Should Go, well, then he will indeed go, a little tiny moment sooner than otherwise, and a few thousand lives may be spared.
It would appear that this process of mutual recrimination – of deals and then withdrawn deals, of consultations and then recriminations – is well under way.
As I say, if all this foolishness serves to draw some more attention to the sorry state of Zimbabwe, then it will have done some good.