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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Reuters > Report

England split over playing in Zimbabwe

January 20, 2003 15:14 IST

England's players are committed to playing their World Cup match in Zimbabwe next month but are wrestling with their consciences over conditions in the African country, captain Nasser Hussain said on Sunday.

"I sat in my hotel room last night watching CNN (cable television news)...and what I saw was very difficult to take in," Hussain told reporters in Adelaide, where Australia beat England by four wickets in a triangular series one-day match.

"It was very difficult to sit there in your room saying 'yeah, we should go to Zimbabwe'.

"What we saw out of Zimbabwe was very poor but that doesn't mean we are suddenly saying we are not going or anything like that."

The British government had called on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to withdraw from the February 13 fixture in Harare because of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's controversial policies.

But the ECB decided on Tuesday the team would play as scheduled, despite Zimbabwe's deepening economic crisis and food shortages.

"I think all our consciences are split from day to day," Hussain added.

"We are asking ourselves whether we should go or not go and, from day to day, we are probably changing our minds but that is irrelevant.

"What is important is world cricket says it's going on, our board says it's going on, we have signed our contracts."

The British Mail on Sunday newspaper, however, quoted an England player as saying the team had serious doubts and wanted more information and guidance.

"Until we're absolutely certain that it's the right thing to do from all aspects, we reserve the right not to play (in Zimbabwe)," the player said.

ECB chairman David Morgan, speaking to the London programme Radio Five Live from Adelaide, reiterated England's commitment to the Harare fixture, adding that he not seen any signs of doubt among England's 15-man squad for the World Cup.

"I have had no indication at all and I have been in close contact with the captain, the coach and many players," he said.

Morgan added that England might not be allowed a replacement for any player refusing to play in Harare.

"The situation now is that all 15 World Cup selected players have signed their player terms and, if any one decided that he didn't now want to make it, there is no guarantee that we would now be allowed to replace that cricketer," he said.

"Replacements are allowed on the basis of health and fitness only, I believe."

Morgan, who will meet the England squad on Tuesday to discuss their concerns, saw no reason not to fulfil any future commitments to tour Zimbabwe.

"I can't imagine we would want not to visit Zimbabwe when next scheduled to do so," he said.

He said the security situation was "under day-to-day review" but that Zimbabwe cricket officials had reported "no real change" since an ICC (International Cricket Council) fact-finding mission to the African country late last year cleared it for the six matches it is scheduled to stage.

Zimbabwe is hosting six of the 54 matches in the tournament being staged mainly in South Africa from February 9 to March 23. Two games are being played in Kenya.

The other teams in England's group are Australia, whose government has also expressed reservations about playing in Zimbabwe, Pakistan, India, Namibia and the Netherlands. The Australians are due to meet Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on February 24.

Britain's Culture, Media and Sport Minister Tessa Jowell said she regretted the ECB's decision to play in Harare but that the situation in Zimbabwe had no bearing on the African country's scheduled cricket tour of Britain later this year.

"There is a very important distinction between honouring a government, as I believe playing in Harare will do, and welcoming the Zimbabwean team to play in Britain this summer," Jowell told Radio Five Live on Sunday.

"They will be welcome and I hope they come, just as the Zimbabwean team competed and were welcomed as competitors at the Commonwealth Games (in Manchester in August 2002)."

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