I’ve been flagging up England versus Zimbabwe cricket here because I anticipated that the row about whether England ought to be playing cricket against Zimbabwe, given the state of Zimbabwe, was not going to go away. What I had not anticipated was that Zimbabwean cricket would itself be wrecked by the same processes which are destroying Zimbabwe in general. I should have, but I failed to.
The Zimbabwean cricket team (like Zimbabwe itself) is now a racially and politically polarised shambles:
Zimbabwean cricket will reach meltdown this morning when 15 rebel players and their lawyer draft a letter rejecting the board’s offer of mediation and renewing their boycott. This time they will walk out for good.
“This will hopefully be our final letter,” one of the rebels said. “We’ll probably be set free in about 14 days when they fire us.” The Zimbabwe Cricket Union will be forced to pick Test sides from the willing but hopelessly inexperienced young players who crashed and burned to a 5-0 one-day series defeat against Sri Lanka.
So what have these “rebels” been rebelling about. Well, their problem is that the Zimbabwe cricket team is now being selected, not by people who know their cricket, but by people who know their Robert Mugabe.
As far as I can see, any argument for continuing to play Zimbabwe is based on the idea that cricket and politics have been largely separated, and that the strongest team is being fielded. This is now manifestly not so, as players are being selected (or not) on racial and political grounds. …
And things have not got any better since then, as Scott Wickstein explained on Ubersportingpundit today.
Tony Blair has said that England “shouldn’t” tour Zimbabwe in the autumn. But he isn’t willing to decide the matter, and I can see his point.
The problem is that the ICC (International Cricket Council) has dug itself into a position of insisting that England must tour Zimbabwe, on the grounds that (now that South Africa has been sorted) politics and cricket must be kept separate, and the dominant ICC voices (i.e. India, and also Pakistan and Sri Lanka) are from countries whose citizens are extremely reluctant to admit to white people that they might have made a mistake. Although actually, they could change their policy now, on the grounds that Zimbabwean cricket has also changed. The Zimbabwean team used to be selected on cricketing merit. Now it is not.