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The door remains ajar on the latest round of New Zealand-Zimbabwe cricket relations, subject to changes in the political landscape in the impoverished African nation.

The scheduled tour comprising three ODIs in July was yesterday put off until June-July next year, after a meeting between New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan and Zimbabwe's representative on the International Cricket Council, Ozias Bvute, at the ICC meeting in Johannesburg.

And with New Zealand's end-of-year tour to Pakistan a strong chance to be called off, it means a lean international year ahead for the national side.

Rather than scrap the tour, Vaughan said he acceded to a request from Bvute, a close crony of despised Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, to provisionally reschedule the visit.

He told Bvute the New Zealand Government's position was that it did not want the tour to proceed and would almost certainly stop the team travelling.

"He asked me whether we had any free playing time next winter," Vaughan told the Herald from Johannesburg yesterday.

Vaughan consulted the international playing calendar and found a vacant window in the middle of the year.

"He asked if we would be prepared to postpone the tour, that they believed a postponement would be in everyone's best interests. I could see no reason to deny them that request, given we have no cricket at that time," Vaughan said.

Whether the tour goes ahead at that time most likely depends on whether Zimbabwe's political situation has improved under the power-sharing arrangement with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party; whether Mugabe remains in power; and the health of the country, given its ongoing cholera outbreak.

Last week, Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand should boycott Zimbabwe on moral grounds, as well as for health and safety reasons.

By contrast, New Zealand last toured Zimbabwe in 2005 when Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to order the team not to make the trip. If NZC had then withdrawn of its own volition, it would have been in line for a US$2 million fine ($3.9 million) from the ICC for failing to fulfil its obligation to tour the country.

Vaughan said the ICC was "comfortable" with the postponement.

Vaughan pointed out that "in very basic terms" Zimbabwe is a member of the ICC and "we have an obligation to play against them unless there are extraneous circumstances that

prevent it".

He added that if in a year the National Government's view towards Zimbabwe had softened, "it's probably a good thing for cricket to be a bridge to support them [Zimbabwe] in some way".

No replacement tour for New Zealand has been arranged at this point.

In other developments, Vaughan is still awaiting confirmation that New Zealand's champion Twenty20 side will be invited to the multinational Champions League competition in India this year.

Otago host Canterbury in Sunday's final and while verbal assurances have been given, Vaughan is still to get the written invitation from the Indian board.

He had been hoping to have it in time for the final, but has now been told it is two weeks away.

Vaughan expects a decision to be announced late this week on how NZC will fulfil their commitment to India's board to give their six test-only squad members match practice ahead of the three-test series next month.

The six - batsmen Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Murali Vijay, legspinner Amit Mishra and fast-medium Dhawal Kulkarni and Lakshmipathy Balaji - are expected to play in a round of State Championship matches from March 6-9 after the Indians pre-test practice match against New Zealand A was dropped from the schedule to fit in an extra test and Twenty20 international.

"We've made a commitment to India that their players will get adequate warmup," Vaughan said, "but we're still working on exactly how that will be done."


What the rest of the year holds for New Zealand:
* June: World Twenty20 championship, England
* August-Sept: Test and ODI tour to Sri Lanka
* November: Test and ODI tour to Pakistan