“The Open and an ICC Ban all in a week “

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Shane Lowry lifting the “ Claret Jug “ at the 148th Open Championship on Sunday at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland

MARC POZZO

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has suspended Zimbabwe for failing to ensure there is no government interference in its running of the sport. ICC funding has been withdrawn and the country will be barred from participating at ICC events. Zimbabwe are due to take part in a T20 World Cup qualifier in October. “We must keep our sport free from political interference,” said ICC chairman Shashank Manohar.” What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked.”

The ICC issued the punishment after the entire Zimbabwe Cricket Board was suspended by the government sports and recreation commission last month and replaced with an interim committee. This is where I have a massive problem. Given the financial investment the ICC has put into ZC, and the subsequent gross mismanagement of those funds, it would seem to be in the ICC’s best interest, to help us clean up our sport. Instead they have attempted to influence the reinstatement of the very board who mismanaged their funds in the first place. This does not make sense to me.

In essence the ICC turned a blind eye to the corruption of the board for many years. How do we get the ICC to listen to cricket lovers? Or are we facing a losing battle and the sport we all love is now on its way out? What concerns me is not the ZC board and senior management not getting their monthly dues but the players not being paid. ZC and ICC have messed with people’s lives, and we have already seen one player Soloman Mire call time on his short career, due to the uncertainty that is prevailing around them.

The interim board set up by the SRC comprises two of the most influential persons who guided cricket  so many years ago, and the “cash box” was sound. Justice Ebrahim and David Ellman Brown. Surely the ICC can see this is cleaning up of the sport? I am told both the ZC and the SRC were given slots to present to the ICC Board during that board meeting. Reading between the lines the ICC had made the call well before the presentations .

The ICC says it will review its decision at a board meeting in October. I actually believe, the easy way out for the ICC to save face is just ignore Zimbabwe cricket, and it would not surprise me, that we don’t even feature on the agenda at that board meeting and the wait will continue.

Zimbabwe’s Test status was suspended by the ICC in June 2004 after 15 players dropped out of the squad after then captain Heath Streak was sacked. They played eight Test matches in 2005 after the suspension was lifted, but would then not play another Test match until 2011.They failed to qualify for this year’s Cricket World Cup in England and Wales. In March, former Zimbabwe Cricket director Enock Ikope was given a 10-year ban from the game after being found guilty of breaching three counts of the ICC’s anti-corruption code. His suspension followed a 20-year ban for Rajan Nayer, a former Zimbabwe cricket official, for attempted match-fixing in March 2018.

To a more relaxing and lovely story, Shane Lowry burst onto the professional scene with an incredible victory as an amateur at the Irish Open a decade ago, and he delivered again on Sunday by romping to a memorable Open Championship triumph at a wind-swept Royal Portrush. The 32-year-old became only the second player from the Republic of Ireland to win the Claret Jug, after Padraig Harrington, to the delight of the home crowds as the Open was given a dream result on its return to Northern Ireland after a 68-year absence.

The stunning six-shot win, after leading by four strokes overnight, also banished the demons of Lowry’s collapse when four clear in the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. The son of Gaelic football player Brendan Lowry, claimed one of the unlikeliest of titles on his European Tour debut in 2009. Lowry entered that Irish Open at County Louth without a world ranking, but fired a 62 en route to an eventual win over England’s Robert Rock on a third sudden-death play-off hole. That victory had him earmarked as a potential star of European golf, but until this incredible week on the Causeway coast, he had perhaps slightly under-achieved despite some high moments.

Lowry missed out on the 500,000-euro winning prize, though, due to his amateur status, and he quickly turned pro the next week.Three straight missed cuts followed, but he steadily found his feet on the tour and took his second title at the Portugal Masters in 2012. He announced himself to a wider audience with a two-stroke win over Bubba Watson in the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and then put himself in pole position to grab a first major title at Oakmont.

Lowry played brilliantly to seize a four-shot advantage heading into the fourth round that Sunday in 2016, but he cracked, falling to a 76 and a tie for second, three strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson.

Lowry slipped down the rankings after his US Open disappointment from a career-high 17th, finding himself the world number 92 after the Open 12 months ago. He found form this year, though, winning his fourth European Tour title in the Abu Dhabi Championship and finishing in the top 10 at May’s PGA Championship, his first top-10 at a major since Oakmont.

He had been in sublime form on all four days even in testing conditions and his Saturday round of 63 was the round that put him in pole to come out and play his game on Sunday with a little less pressure . And it worked even if we dropped is only shot of the day on first. He played cautious golf  and took the acclaim of thousands of jubilant fans on a spine-tingling walk up the 18th fairway, with his arms held aloft. The party could last long into the night, after the fresh-faced lad who had become only the second home winner of the Irish Open 10 years before, saw his career come full circle as, with a big smile across his bearded face, he lifted golf’s oldest major trophy and it was so well deserved. I did feel sorry for Tommy Fleetwood who I believe will win a major or two in time. It’s just a waiting game .