A tour of Zimbabwe by the West Indies A cricket team has been canceled by the West Indies cricket board. The cancellation of the tour is a serious setback for Zimbabwe's campaign to return to elite cricket, or "Test," status. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.
The tour by the second string team was scheduled for early next month. Announcing the cancellation, the West Indies Cricket Board said it would issue a full statement outlining the reasons. But there is widespread speculation that the tour was pulled because of security concerns.
The industry publication Cricinfo, in a report issued earlier this week, quoted Keith Mitchell, the Grenada prime minister, as saying he did not think it was safe to travel given what he called the instability existing in Zimbabwe. West Indies Players Association (WIPA) president Dinanath Ramnarine had also weighed in saying that players were concerned about the security situation in Zimbabwe.
This latest setback for Zimbabwe cricket follows last month's cancellation of a tour of the southern African country by Australia's national cricket team. Announcing the ban, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said allowing the tour to go ahead would give a boost to the government of Zimbabwe and its president, Robert Mugabe, whom he described as a "grubby dictator."
But other teams are going ahead with their plans to play in Zimbabwe.
A spokesperson for the England Cricket Board told VOA that England is only scheduled to tour Zimbabwe in 2012 so the issue of touring is not an immediate concern.
And Cricket South Africa's chief executive Gerald Majola told VOA he is not aware of any security problems in Zimbabwe and his country's tour will go ahead as planned.
"As far as we are concerned we have an obligation to play against Zimbabwe and we will be touring Zimbabwe this year. In fact Zimbabwe will be playing also in our domestic competitions this year," said Majola. "As far as Cricket South Africa is concerned we have a very strong relationship with Zimbabwe and we see no reason of panicking or not playing in Zimbabwe we don't know why others are pulling out but as for us we will be playing in Zimbabwe."
Zimbabwe is a member of the cricket elite Test nations but suspended participation in those matches in 2006. That's because most of the senior players, who happened to be white, resigned. They were protesting the introduction of a quota system aimed at making the team more representative of the country's population. Since the departure of the senior players, the team has not been doing well. Zimbabwe is hoping that one-day international tours by other countries will help strengthen the national team.