After weeks of backroom manoeuvring and two days of boardroom negotiations, the Zimbabwe issue was resolved with a compromise that sees them pulling out of the 2009 World Twenty20 in England yet retaining their Full Member status with access to full funding from the ICC.
Zimbabwe, whose decision to pull out from the World Twenty20 cleared the roadblock for the competition to be staged in England, will receive its full participation fee for the tournament. The scenario prompted Ray Mali, whose term as ICC president ended today, to call it a "win-win solution".
"We have decided to pull out in the larger interests of the game," Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, told Cricinfo. "We have been informed that the British government may not grant visas to our players, and that situation may prevail during the Twenty20 World Cup. We don't want to be gatecrashers; we will attend only those weddings to which we are invited."
Martin Williamson of Cricinfo comments:
Anyone who believes that Zimbabwe Cricket withdrew from the World Twenty20 "in the interest of the game" probably believes in Santa Claus. Backed into a corner that even its protecting angels within the ICC could not get it out of, there was little choice. When Peter Chingoka, the man who has come to personify Zimbabwe Cricket said, "We don't want to gatecrash where we are not welcome," it was hard to keep a straight face.
Many argue the Zimbabwe Cricket board has never acted in the interests of cricket either inside or outside the country. Chingoka's bleating that the ICC could not expel Zimbabwe because it was against its own rules would have drawn more than a few wry smiles back home, coming from a man who utterly shredded his own board's constitution two years ago to ensure his own survival.
And that's what the decision today is all about - survival. The end result is a compromise that does little to help cricket inside Zimbabwe, and further tarnishes the already battered image of the ICC.
The ICC must believe it's possible to fool all of the people all of the time judging by their outlandish performance at the latest executive board meeting.
When Zimbabwe arrived for the ICC meeting, their two priorities would have been to retain their elite status vote and keep their full share of the ICC monies. Amazingly for a cricket body that has been under a cloud for the way it has administered the game and handled finances, Zimbabwe Cricket extracted exactly those promises from the meeting, and in addition they don't have to perform to get paid.As does Malcolm Conn in The Weekend Australian :
The standard of cricket in Zimbabwe has fallen so badly that it was forced to withdraw from Test cricket three years ago, although Zimbabwe and the ICC still claim the exit was "voluntary".
Its one-day team is so bad it is ranked below Ireland in 11th place on the ICC's one-day table. New Zealand beat Ireland by a record 290 runs last Tuesday.
Despite this the ICC continues to pour millions of dollars into Zimbabwe.
There are serious questions about where the money ends up, with cricket at all levels in Zimbabwe destroyed and the administration closely aligned to dictator Robert Mugabe.
One frustrated member of the cricket establishment yesterday told The Australian: "The ICC should just write out a cheque for $10m to Mugabe."
Zimbabwe received about that amount for its feeble participation in last year's World Cup.
The millions Zimbabwe receives from the ICC is largely unaccounted for but two audits revealed damning accounting irregularities with the ZC finances.
The ICC suppressed the audits and dumped chief executive Malcolm Speed for attempting to bring Zimbabwe to account.
Australia opposed Zimbabwe continuing as a full ICC member and, according to sources in Dubai, was "very unhappy" with the ICC's unlawful decision to change Pakistan's 2006 forfeit against England to a draw.