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Zimbabwe tour morally wrong: Stewart

Quentin Webb | May 04, 2004 19:52 IST

England's scheduled tour of Zimbabwe in October is not safe and morally wrong, former England captain Alec Stewart said on Tuesday.

In April, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said England would tour Zimbabwe unless a government order or security fears forced them to do otherwise, despite concerns over human rights and calls for a boycott.

The sport's governing International Cricket Council (ICC) has warned England they face suspension and a $2 million fine if they fail to fulfil their tour obligations.

"What's happening in Zimbabwe isn't right," Stewart told journalists at the launch of a sports fund-raising initiative.

The former England wicketkeeper-batsman was part of a Nasser Hussain-led team that refused to play in the Southern African country in the 2003 World Cup because of security concerns.

"Morally, and for safety and security issues, it's probably not right to go. In fact it isn't right to go," said Stewart.

The British government has said it has serious concerns about the human rights regime of President Robert Mugabe's government, but that it is down to the ECB to make the decision whether or not to tour.

Zimbabwe cricket chiefs have consistently argued there is no sound reason for England to cancel.

"The ECB have been backed into a corner," Stewart said. "The ICC have put the ECB under huge pressure with financial penalties on the tour... That's harsh."

Stewart also countered press criticism that paceman Darren Gough, 33, should retire following a lacklustre performance in the one-day international series against the West Indies.

"We got beaten yesterday, but they picked him for his experience -- to pass on that experience to younger lads," Stewart said. "He's still got a big part to play."

Stewart played his 133rd and final Test for England last September at the age of 40.

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