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Cricket first for Hayden
February 22, 2003 16:23 IST
Australia batsman Matthew Hayden is determined to focus on cricket rather than politics as the defending champions prepare for their World Cup Group A match against Zimbabwe on Monday.
The build-up to the tournament has brought plenty of coverage about the political and economic problems affecting Zimbabwe, with security concerns resulting in England forfeiting their match in Harare.
Hayden expressed reservations about the situation before Australia departed for southern Africa, but on Friday he said he was comfortable with the match going ahead and was looking forward to it.
"While there are enormous difficulties and troubles in the country, the ICC (International Cricket Council), the ACB (Australian Cricket Board) and the players have taken that into account in our decisions," he told reporters.
"Now we are really looking forward to showing 6000 people at the ground a great game of cricket and, hopefully, it will be a relief in their desperate situation.
"We are very comfortable as we have had extensive briefings from Michael Brown (the ACB's Cricket Operations General Manager) and also there was a trial run with India playing Zimbabwe and there were no hassles whatsoever.
"Player safety was the number one issue for us and the Board but we feel quite comfortable now and we have put a few overhanging issues to bed.
"My feelings remain about the political situation but we are international cricketers, we love playing cricket for our country, we want to win the World Cup and we are going there to do that," he said.
"We have a responsibility as cricketers to play right across the world and it wouldn't be a World Cup if we didn't go there."
Australia will head to Bulawayo on Sunday with three straight wins under their belts, against Pakistan, India and the Netherlands.
They have looked comfortably the most impressive side in the tournament, but even on the back of such good form Hayden was reluctant to commit to the belief they could go through the tournament unbeaten.
"It is too early to talk about that," he said. "But we are playing good cricket and have been for the past 12 months.
"Now it is all about playing the big matches well and our next one against Zimbabwe is a big match. If we can do that then we can continue to build momentum and we are a great side when we have momentum," he said.
Australia's progress has been even more impressive as it has come in the absence of leg-spinner Shane Warne who returned home to face the ACB's Anti-Doping Committee, but the way the side has performed has not surprised Hayden.
"Warney leaving our squad was a huge loss but that is the strength of our side, we really have dragged together," he said.
"We have been in a unique situation, playing with 14 players, but it has just been a case of getting on with the job, something that is a great Australian attitude.
"We are all hoping it goes well for Shane but we are also keen to put it behind us in lots of ways and I am sure Shane is in the same situation as it has been a fairly traumatic couple of weeks for him.
"We have not known what is going to happen and as soon as we do then everyone can move on," said Hayden.
Australia, with no injury concerns, were set to practice in Potchefstroom on Saturday morning before travelling to Johannesburg before their flight to Bulawayo on Sunday morning.
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