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Big blow to Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe are likely to continue languishing in Test cricket's wilderness a while longer after the International Cricket Council's cricket committee this week recommended the country remain in isolation.

It was one of several recommendations as the committee, chaired by Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar and including West Indies fast bowling great Michael Holding, concluded a two-day meeting here Thursday.

"The committee did not support the return of Zimbabwe to Test cricket until such time as the team demonstrates its ability to perform at a standard that does not risk undermining the integrity of Test cricket," the ICC said.

"In order to be able to judge when Zimbabwe's performance merits a return to Test cricket, the committee felt the team first needed to continue in its current practice of playing a number of representative four-day matches.

"The committee encouraged the scheduling of such matches against ICC Full Member A teams and Associates with, for example, the inclusion of Zimbabwe in the next ICC Intercontinental Cup."

Recommendations from the cricket committee will go forward to the Chief Executives Committee and the board for ratification. The development is a big blow for Zimbabwe, the centre of much international political attention because of President Robert Mugabe's oppressive regime.

Recently, Australia cancelled a scheduled one-day international series there after intervention from Prime Minister John Howard.

The West Indies Cricket Board were scheduled to meet this weekend to decide whether the 'A' team tour to that country, scheduled for July, will continue as planned. West Indies 'A' are scheduled to contest three four-day matches and two one-dayers between July 1-27.

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