Cow Corner

The Zimbabwe question

Cow Corner

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So the ICC says politics and sport should not mix and probably won't ban the Zimbabwe cricket board.

Maybe Cowers was having a mad cow year in 2006; but back then didn't Robert Mugabe's government take over the national board? Isn't that classed as political interference?

The fact is that no one wants to play Zimbabwe. They rubbish at hitting leather balls with willow bats, it is not safe to tour there and its leader is a despot to whom no one in their right mind would want to give credibility.

Then there are the selection policies that saw inadequate players selected along racial lines, plus the dismissal of all white and Asian administrators because of their unacceptable 'agendas'.

Political enough for you?

Here is the crux: would a ban (until they cleaned up their act) defend the separation of sport and politics, or mix them further?

Let's keep it on the real: there is no way in this situation that politics can be kept out of sport. There is more chance of Freddie Flintoff smashing a century in the second innings against Sussex.

That is why Australia refused to tour Zimbabwe last year, why Cricket South Africa suspended cricketing relations last week and why our own Government followed suit in ordering the England and Wales Cricket Board to cancel their 2009 tour of England.

These actions were not taken lightly: the ECB have in the past been subjected to a massive fine for refusing to travel for a scheduled tour.

An ICC vote over whether Zimbabwe ought to be suspended is due in the next couple of days: if Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan - who played a full part in the cricket world while under a military regime - back their retention within the council, that would be enough.

If that happens the ECB could be in for a serious stand-off: should they refuse to welcome Zimbabwe, as a full ICC member, to England for the World Twenty20 next year, the tournament could be taken from them and hosted elsewhere.

It seems obvious to Cowers that to continue to stand firm in the face of this possibility would be madness even a cow would struggle to contemplate - but that would discount the influence of Gordon Brown's powerbrokers in parliament, who are keen to be seen to be tough on Mugabe.

If it comes to that, the ECB should make its own statement on the politics and sport question - and ignore Downing Street, if only in protest at petrol prices and the 10p tax rate, not that it affects Cowers much in his field.

Completely off on a tangent, what would happen if England honoured a commitment to tour Zimbabwe in future? Would even Freddie, with his lucrative sponsorship deals, be able to afford his daily staple of Big Macs and Lucozade? Cowers suspects he'd have to re-mortgage the house before he left.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think he is a character who really gets people motivated and his own performance is always up and the crowds love him. That is the challenge that we have to face." South Africa captain Graeme Smith has obviously not been doing his homework on Flintoff in recent weeks ahead of the Test series with England.

FEEDBACK OF THE DAY: pompstarr: "Forget Freddy folks... he's lost his "mojo". Answered by thomas_rea1977: "I would say that the time is right to get some young guns in the England cricket side if you want us to win the ashes back so yeah baby oh do behave."

TALKING POINT: After this welcome Austin Powers-inspired input, we want to hear Zimbabwe-cricket-Mugabe opinions held by a British comedy character. Harry Enfield, Little Britain, Monty Python... you decide.

LIVE: India are playing Pakistan in Karachi while the County Championship continues - check out the latest with our scorecards.


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