The rescheduling of New Zealand’s upcoming tour of Zimbabwe has had unintended consequences for associate nation Ireland, who had previously been planning to tour Zimbabwe at that time. Accusations that Zimbabwe are now refusing to play Ireland because that country ranks higher than them in the ODI tables or because Ireland will apparently not feature in the next World Cup are refuted by Zimbabwe Cricket:
“It is very unfortunate that recent media reports aim to portray Zimbabwe as unwilling to play against Ireland and insinuate that the reason is based on an attempt to ostracise them,” said [ZC managing director Ozias] Bvute. “Zimbabwe has suffered greatly from the politics of exclusion and we would not wish that on any one. Sport is about participation and increasing the numbers that participate to allow for the sustainability of any given activity.”
Zimbabwe’s original proposal, in October 2010, had been for Ireland to play three ODIs and a five-day unofficial Test in October/November 2011, as preparation for their New Year visit to New Zealand. However, on March 23, a fortnight prior to the Mumbai meeting in which Ireland’s World Cup fate was sealed, that plan was shelved after New Zealand themselves confirmed they would be touring Zimbabwe in that period, having already postponed their scheduled visit in May/June.
Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland’s chief executive, confirmed that Zimbabwe had not been at fault in the negotiations. “Ozias is absolutely correct,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “In the recent Chief Executives Committee meeting, he was extremely supportive of the associates and spoke out strongly in their favour. There is nothing sinister in this whatsoever. We were initially in conversation about travelling to Zimbabwe at the end of the year, but as one of the smaller Full Member nations, they have to wait for the bigger members to organise their own schedules. Simply, there was a clash between the time we wanted to come down, and the contractual obligations they are required to fulfil through the FTP.”
While ZC is hardly the most scrupulous of sporting bodies, it does look like they’ve got a point. While it may irk some Irish cricket supporters, a tour by New Zealand, a full test-playing nation, is always going to be more important to Zimbabwe than one by an associate nation.