ARCHIBISHOP Desmond Tutu called for Englandâ€™s cricketers to break their sporting ties with Zimbabwe, when he delivered the prestigious MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture at Lordâ€™s on Tuesday evening.
Tutu, 76, was heavily involved in the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, and he believes that, by taking a similar stance against Robert Mugabeâ€™s regime, a powerful message would be sent by the world that Mugabe is a “pariah”.
“I would say it is a non-violent pressure that can be brought to bear,” Tutu told The Guardian on the eve of the lecture. “People will say Mugabe doesnâ€™t play cricket but the more you make him aware that he has become a pariah the better.”
“I believe that a significant part of the population in Zimbabwe would say (the cricketers) should not be here, because you are lending a legitimacy and respectability to a country that is in a shambles because of one person.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Strauss has hinted that Englandâ€™s players will consider boycotting games against Zimbabwe should the 2009 series against them go ahead.
Speaking at the MCC Spirit of Cricket evening at Lordâ€™s, where the guests included Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, Strauss told an audience of 1400 that if Mugabe stays in power then there was a real chance that some of the team would not be prepared to play against Zimbabwe.
“In the past thereâ€™ve been opportunities for the government to show the strength of feeling among the general population here and the government chose not to,” he said.
“If it comes down to players to do that, weâ€™ll definitely have to look at it.
“Thereâ€™s a feeling on previous tours that the players have been left in the lurch by both the government and the ECB. Thereâ€™s a great sense among the general population that our last tour to Zimbabwe shouldnâ€™t have gone ahead. Itâ€™s come down to a certain extent to personal preference and there have been some tough decisions made in previous tours.
“When we come round to the issue again we all hope that the political situation in Zimbabwe is very different. But if it isnâ€™t there are going to be more very difficult decisions to be made.”
Strauss was speaking as a member of a panel, along with Barry Richards and Mike Brearley, in a question-and-answer session which followed Archbishop Desmond Tutuâ€™s Spirit of Cricket lecture at Lordâ€™s.
Richards said that the ICC had missed an opportunity in not taking action against Zimbabwe before now.
“I think the ICC are erring and it frustrates the hell out of me that Zimbabwe have not been brought to book. Itâ€™s a moral issue and what he (Mugabe) is doing everybody knows is simply not right … cricket can play a part in that and itâ€™s not.” â€” cricinfo.