Time to cancel Zimbabwe tour

WE all know there is one person in Australia who bowls better leg spin than Stuart MacGill. But whether there is anyone with a keener sense of right and wrong, and the courage to act on it, is now less certain.



ONT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>For years, Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council have turned a blind eye to the racist policies of Zimbabwe’s dictatorial President Robert Mugabe, even when those policies have directly affected Zimbabwean cricket. MacGill has said – quietly, firmly and without any criticism of those whose consciences dictate otherwise – that he refuses to be part of this charade any longer, and will not play in Zimbabwe next month. Good on him.

Zimbabwe has become the most divisive issue in world cricket. At the World Cup held in Africa last year, New Zealand and England were fined for refusing to play in Zimbabwe. The decision by two Zimbabwean cricketers, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, to wear black armbands in a World Cup match in protest against Mugabe’s despotism and cruelty was the bookend to MacGill’s actions now. For both of them, however, it has borne the heavy cost of exile from their beloved homeland.

But now the divisions within Zimbabwean cricket are at flashpoint, with 15 national players on strike over racist selection policies and the sacking of skipper Heath Streak. This means that if the Australian tour goes ahead, the world’s best cricket squad will be playing against second-stringers. The fact Cricket Australia presses on in these circumstances is explained, though not excused, by a threatened US$2,74 million fine from the ICC.

But how to explain the ICC’s position? As a result of policies no more racist or brutal than Mugabe’s, South Africa was banned from Commonwealth sport, and the Olympics, for more than two decades. The economic and sporting sanctions were a major factor in ending apartheid, and since they were lifted the Springboks and Proteas have become powerful symbols of South African national unity and resolve. Does that story have any purchase on the minds of international cricket officials?

Mugabe has discriminated viciously against white Zimbabweans, cowed the press, and driven his own people to starvation. He stands for everything the Commonwealth of Nations is against, and as a result Zimbabwe has been suspended from the Commonwealth.

But for as long as Mugabe continues to oppress his people, while his sports officials insist sportspeople be chosen on the colour of their skin, Zimbabwe should also be suspended from the Commonwealth game of cricket. – The Australian.