World Cup security crisis dividing cricket
Agence France-Presse
January 29, London

Fears that the crisis over Zimbabwe and Kenya's role in the World Cup could lead to a split in the global game mounted Wednesday after India signalled it would oppose proposals to move matches out of the troubled African states.

England's players and New Zealand cricket chiefs have said they want their matches in Harare and Nairobi respectively to be relocated to main tournament hosts South Africa on security grounds.

But sources close to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told AFP they would oppose such moves when the International Cricket Council (ICC)'s executive board discusses the issue again on Thursday.

"The ICC has so far resisted attempts to take World Cup matches out of Zimbabwe and Kenya, and we support that stand," a BCCI source told AFP in New Delhi.

"Organisers have spent money and effort to host these games, you just can't take them away."

The ICC, whose president Malcolm Gray and chief executive Malcolm Speed are both Australians, are wary of anything that could create a permanent split between white and non-white countries.

That, in part, explains their hardline approach over the venues.

India, along with Australia, England, Pakistan, Namibia and the Netherlands are scheduled to play in Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka, as well as New Zealand, have a game in Kenya.

Even India's arch political and cricket rival Pakistan is due to back the BCCI on this issue.

The British and Australian governments have both been severely critical of alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in the famine-threatened country.

Both governments have called on their teams to withdraw from Zimbabwe in protest at Mugabe's regime and some believe these appeals have placed their sides at particular risk.

So far, these calls have been resisted by their respective cricket authorities but on Monday, England's players issued a statement calling for their match in Harare to be moved to South Africa, where the bulk of the 54 World Cup games are taking place.
But the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) position is complicated by worries that an Harare withdrawal will lead to a Mugabe-inspired retaliatory cancellation of Zimbabwe's post World Cup tour of England.

ECB bosses fear they could lose as much as 10 million pounds (16.4 million dollars) if Zimbabwe pull out.

New Zealand are fearful of further terrorist attacks in Kenya after 11 people were killed in a car bomb explosion in Mombassa in November.

Zimbabwe and Kenya will gain full points if their rivals forfeit matches.

That may not be a problem for tournament favourites Australia but it could damage England hopes of making it through to the knockout stages.

At the 1996 World Cup, Australia forfeited points after withdrawing from a match in Sri Lanka on safety grounds but still went on to reach the final.

The crisis could still be unresolved by the time the World Cup starts.

Speed said last week matches could be moved with as little as four days notice, meaning cricket chiefs may delay making a decision until the last minute.