The political rape of cricket in Zimbabwe is set to be completed in 22 days time, following its effective nationalisation by the ruthless government.

The International Cricket Council has, shamelessly, dodged the issue and they deserve to have their precious world ranking scheme torn apart, which it will be because of their refusal to adopt the same cricketing sanctions that were levelled against South Africa 35 years ago, when they were banned for 21 years from official international cricket.

The issue will be raised, "informally" according to ECB chairman David Morgan, at the ICC meeting this week in Karachi. Why not formally, as the Asian countries rightly want Zimbabwe again suspended from Test cricket?

The objection from the sub-continent is based mainly on cricketing grounds, but the bigger issue has racial undertones with no Asian or white man appointed to the new Zimbabwe Board.

The beleaguered Zimbabwe cricketers have been used as political pawns for the last decade, and so forced the issue on 22nd December.

They went on strike, refusing to sign their contracts unless they were paid monies due since last September, and also demanded the removal of chairman Peter Chingoka, who is still under a cloud following allegations of financial impropriety. He was removed from the former Board but, surprise surprise, is chairman of the new body.

Remember players such as Heath Streak, Henry Olonga, Murray Goodwin, the Flower brothers and many more who actually did compete well at top level.

They refused to bow the knee to the despotic regime and emigrated. The new captain was 24-year-old Tatenda Taibu, but he refused to bang his young head against such a brutal brick wall any more. He resigned in protest on November 24.

As usual, the ICC pussy-footed their way through a minefield when, just as they have done since before the last World Cup when England were eliminated because they would not travel to Harare, any sort of leadesrhip from the game's governing body, the ECB and the British government was not forthcoming.

Many weasel-type words were uttered, and many hands were wrung, but Nasser Hussain and his hapless cricketers were hung out to dry in 2003. The nettle should have been grasped then, but eyes were shut in the vain hope that the Good Fairy would come to the rescue.

Push has now finally come to shove, so what next? West Indies are the pushers for a January 31 cut-off date, because they are due to host a tour by Zimbabwe in April and need to confirm arrangements, or make alternative plans.

The verbiage from Harare is heart-breaking. When the Mugabe mob heard of the strike of the teenage remnants of that country's previously proud heritage, this was the response from army brigadier Gibson Mashingaidze who is chairman of the Sports and Recreation Commission.

Announcing the government dissolution of the Zimbabwe Cricket Board, he said; "I am unconcerned about the possible repercussions. White and Asian directors have been left out because of their racial connotations [that is not a joke] and having their own agendas which are not government policy."

Now for the last verbal card in the pack dealt to ICC President Ehsan Mani.

"We are prepared to be chucked out of Test status. The government are saying we are starting afresh and we are not bothered. Those who want to stay in can, but those who want to are free to go. They can go to India, Canada or wherever. We are not bothered. The government will not be held to ransom by individuals."

Namely, the young cricketing pawns can get stuffed. As can the the cricketing world - which is no great surprise because that is what the political world has been invited to do for yonks.

It still beggars belief that Hussain and his team were castigated by ECB chairman David Morgan for refusing to kow-tow three years ago, and that the same Morgan insisted that Michael Vaughan did tour there a year later. Anything was preferable to making a stand.

Now Morgan says: "I find it desperately disappointing that there will be room for only one class of Zimbabwean."

Even guff like that is carefully worded, with no mention of the word "colour". And "disappointed" is used instead of "surprising", simply because the actions taken at governmental level cannot surprise even Morgan.

The latest move is that the Zimbabwe cricketers have suspended their strike action until the end of this month, but listen to the words of their spokesman Clive Field.

"The government take-over smacks of what happened on the farms. They said they would simply re-populate the farms with new farmers. But they lacked technology, experience and capital and now we have to import food. Cricket will go along the same lines very quickly."

The temporarily suspended Chingoka has been named as head of the interim body and, despite the players' statement that they will suspend their strike for three weeks, Field is not hopeful.

"The players have accepted assurances that their contractual differences will be addressed, but I am pessimistic about the issue being settled by that date. The players feel that the suspension is a better way to keep the pressure on."

Field's final thoughts are these.

"I expect the players to leave the country in droves. It might be the end of cricket because you just can't produce cricketers out of a hat. There is no financial career for a guy who is not playing Test cricket in this country. The seniors aren't happy with what was said, and the juniors don't see a future in the same here."

In the last few years in which Zimbabwe cricket has been humiliated all around the world with not a vestige of help from the ICC. The players begged the world's authorities to intervene, but the findings of a so-called inquiry were smothered in whitewash.

Runs and wickets achieved against Zimbabwe have devalued the record books because of standards that are no more than those at ordinary club level.

Words such as tragedy and disaster don't belong on the sporting field, but they can be applied to Zimbabwe cricket, if only because of the wider context of a political regime with which the ICC refuses to dirty its hands. The country and its people have been raped by one of the most brutal despots in the African continent.

The same is about to happen to cricket because, as the late John Arlott memorably said; "cricket, like all sport, is only a mirror reflection of society and its attitude to life."

ICC can make a strong stand this week, but anyone willing to risk a few quid has a better chance of profit if they back Lord Lucan to ride Shergar at a point-to-point meeting in the next two months.