LONDON — England could resume touring arrangements with Zimbabwe as part of the International Cricket Council’s new Test and one-day international leagues.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) cut ties with Zimbabwe in 2008 after advice from the UK government.
But current guidance is not prohibitive to Scotland taking part in the 2018 World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
The ECB would consider its position if the need to play against Zimbabwe arises.
England do not have any matches scheduled against Zimbabwe, but there is a scenario that could see fixtures arranged, most likely as part of the ICC’s new 13-team ODI league, which will begin in 2021.
Scotland have never previously played in Zimbabwe, but did host them for two one-day internationals earlier this year.
If the Scots earn a place at next year’s World Cup Qualifier in March — which will determine the final qualification places for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales — they will enter a team, though some players could opt against travelling on moral grounds.
“Scotland is looking forward to playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier taking place in Zimbabwe next March, assuming we qualify for the event,” said a Cricket Scotland statement.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has previously confirmed to us that it is supportive of Scotland’s cricket teams playing in Zimbabwe.”
Political unrest in Zimbabwe under the regime led by President Robert Mugabe caused problems for the England team throughout the 2000s.
England boycotted their fixture against Zimbabwe in Harare at the 2003 World Cup and, later that year, anti-Mugabe protesters were arrested for invading the pitch during a Test between the two sides at Lord’s.
England did travel to Zimbabwe for a one-day international series in 2004, but were under pressure to cancel Zimbabwe’s 2009 tour of England before the government intervened in June 2008 to suspend cricketing ties.
Zimbabwe then withdrew from 2009’s England-hosted ICC World Twenty20. While they have featured in the same ICC global events since then — without meeting directly — the sides have not played against each other since 2007.
The format of the new Test and ODI championships is likely to mean that each team will not have to play every other side in the competition, allowing sensitive political situations to be avoided.
India and Pakistan, for example, have not played each other in Test cricket since 2007, and last met in a bilateral limited-overs series in 2013. A scheduled women’s international series as part of the ICC Women’s Championship in the autumn of 2016 never took place.
But there is no ban from the UK government on sporting engagement with Zimbabwe, with officials in London and Harare happy to work with teams in order to ensure tours, fixtures and competitions are held successfully.