Saturday, July 05, 2008

Zimbabwe retain full member status

Zimbabwe retained full membership of the ICC as a result of a compromise brokered at the ICC Meeting in Dubai, where by Zimbabwe have withdrawn from the international Twenty20 event in England next year, in return for having retained full membership. The compromise was brokered by Sharad Pawar according to Cricinfo.

In an earlier post, i argued that Zimbabwe should not be kicked out of the ICC. My reasoning was that there was no unanimity in the reasons for throwing Zimbabwe out. Dilip Premachandran makes a similar point much more forcefully in presenting an Indian view of the situation. His argument is that the morality argument does not play well in India, mainly because there is deep suspicion about western double standards with respect to human rights. To illustrate his point, he raises Darfur, Tibet, Guantanamo Bay, the invasion of Iraq, the rule of Forbes Burnham in Guyana (it is interesting to note that if the same morality had been at play, we might have been deprived of Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharan and a host of other brilliant Guyanese cricketers), Pakistan's numerous trysts with military dictatorship, and the terrible irony of the fact that the African nations summit which considered censuring Robert Mugabe, invited him as a guest, and was hosted by Hosni Mubarak.

Premachandran makes a forceful argument, one which is likely to reduce all the sanctimonious moralizers in England and Australia to a feeble "but its not the same thing". In my view though, Premachandran undermines his whole argument by stating the obvious - that the ICC's decision was a compromise, and hence was somehow unworthy of a governing body. Compromise is invariably necessary when there cannot be a meeting of the minds involved - it requires concessions, and a withdrawal from original positions. Western double standards are essentially compromises made on account of interests.

If the ICC's consideration of the matter can be criticized, it is because they did Cricket a disservice in the arguments that they considered. In my view, Robert Mugabe's methods ought not to be discussed at an ICC meeting, any more than the issue of Kashmir should be discussed there. It is none of the ICC's business. If at all Zimbabwe was to be stripped of full member nation status, it should have been because they have a very weak cricket team which is clearly not good enough to be a Test team (much like Bangladesh). This would have been a discussion of cricketing interest. Such an argument would have been stronger, and a more difficult one for the BCCI to counter, because the fact that the Zimbabwe is a weak cricket team is beyond dispute. However, it has to be said that the ICC has already effectively dealt with this question - nobody has played Test Cricket against Zimbabwe for almost three years.

The problem with the ICC meeting in my view was not there were compromises made, but that the arguments were irrelevant to Cricket, on an issue where an extremely consequential argument about cricketing standards which would have impacted the future of Test Cricket could, and should have been made. The sobering thing here, is that just as the ICC is not equipped to deal with the political methods of Mr. Mugabe, one doubts whether the members at that table in Dubai were equipped to discuss the future of Test Cricket.

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