Prime Minister John Howard made a last minute appeal to the International Cricket Council to shift Australia's World Cup match with Zimbabwe, due to be played in Bulawayo on Monday, to some other venue.
Howard, who has pressed for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth to be extended until the end of the year, suggested Kenya or South Africa as alternatives.
"I've never argued that the Australian team should unilaterally pull out if it didn't want to," Howard told a Melbourne radio station. "I haven't put that kind of moral pressure on the Australian team.
"My argument has been that the International Cricket Council should have listened to the views of the British and New Zealand governments and shifted all of the games from Zimbabwe to either Kenya or South Africa."
The PM said the Australian team was stuck in a situation where they felt compelled to fulfill their contracts with the Australian Cricket Board.
"I think they're really stuck with a situation that could have been avoided if the International Cricket Council had taken another view." Howard denied it was embarrassing for Australia, having taken such a hard line against Zimbabwe's regime, to have its cricketers play there.
"I never think the Australian cricket team embarrasses this country," Howard said.
The Rediff Comment: Is it just us, or do you too think this whole situation is getting ridiculous?
New Zealand does not want to play in Kenya. England boycotts its match in Zimbabwe. Now the Aussie premier wants the scheduled game in Zimbabwe shifted -- and he says he wouldn't mind Kenya, a land so terrible that the Kiwis are mortally scared to go there.
For god's sake, what is it going to take before participating nations understand that an international event is an international event, and cannot be treated like a family outing?
In any event the ICC, having turned down similar requests from both England and New Zealand, is now in no position to accede to the Aussie request without being thought partisan.