DUBAI - World cricket chiefs were locked in delicate negotiations yesterday to break the divide over strife-torn Zimbabwe and conjure a face-saving compromise.
While England and South Africa want Zimbabwe to be suspended from the International Cricket Council, the powerful Asian bloc led by the game's economic powerhouse India is opposing the move.
"It's a deadlock," a senior cricket official who is attending ICC's yearly meetings in Dubai said.
"Hopefully some sort of a compromise can be worked out."
One solutionis that Zimbabwe, which is already barred from playing Test cricket, will also be omitted from one-day and Twenty20 internationals but retain its status as a full ICC member.
This will clear the way for England to host the Twenty20 world championships next June without Zimbabwe, as demanded by the British government.
It will also enable Zimbabwe Cricket to retain its yearly ICC funding estimated at around R7,8 million and develop the game through A-team tours by other Test nations.
The cricket boards of South Africa and England suspended bilateral ties with Zimbabwe last week in protest at the deteriorating political situation in Harare where Robert Mugabe has been controversially re-elected as president.
The ICC's decision-making executive board will debate the issue today and tomorrow.
At least seven of the ICC's 10 full members - including Zimbabwe - must support any move to throw the African nation out of the sport's governing body.
But the four Asian Test nations - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - are determined to block Zimbabwe's ouster, leading to a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations.
"There is no reason to remove Zimbabwe," Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah said on Monday.
"We understand England's position because their government wants Zimbabwe out. Even our tour commitments are determined by government advice. But we will back Zimbabwe to stay in the ICC," Shah said.
If Zimbabwe retains its full membership, England risks losing the right to host the lucrative Twenty20 worlds next June if the British government denies visas to the Zimbabwean cricketers.
That will embarrass David Morgan, the former England cricket chief who takes over as the ICC president from South African Ray Mali this week.
Zimbabwe have not played Test cricket since hosting India in September 2005 after being told by the ICC to improve its playing standards.
But it retains an active one-day team that takes part in the World Cup.
Meanwhile, former Zimbabwean Test star John Traicos hoped the ICC would not ban his country from world cricket. - Sapa-AFP