Today's the day that the world discovers another of my fetishes - sport. Not as a participant of course, but in the much more Australian role as a keen observer. The money, ethics and politics of getting a bit of excercise is fascinating stuff.
The time has come to make the tough call on cricket in Zimbabwe. No longer can the Australian national side hide behind the increasingly inadequate fig-leaf protection of the "sport and politics don't mix" line. They do, and they have been mixed by the decision of the ZCU to refuse to select white players for the national side, an innately political move that reflects the authoritarian state that Zimbabwe has become. The decision by 15 of the ousted white players to 'strike' is a noble one, and surely a difficult personal decision given the fearsome reputation of nationalist Prime Minister Robert Magabe.
The Australian side cannot shirk their responsibility. To refuse to play on the grounds that the Zimbabwean side is woefully bad and unable to play at an international standard is a glib cop out. To argue that the players should leave the country because their personal safety is at risk is a furphy. Instead, the Australian side need to stand firm and state their reasons clearly and unabiguously - they will not play against a side who's selection policy is based on race and not skill.
The fact that this situation has reached the point that it has is a poor reflection on the muddle-headed bureaucrats who run the game. The ZCU should have suffered the wrath of the ICC as soon as its race-based policy was introduced, rather than waiting for the national cricket bodies of competing sides to confront the issue as they were scheduled to play Zimbabwe. The ICC need to move beyond being "gutless wonders" on this issue, otherwise the issue will fester and continue to haunt the game.