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January 29, 2003 21:20 IST

South Africa and the West Indies are both talking up their chances of victory in the opening game of the World Cup.

Shaun Pollock is banking on home advantage and an excellent past record against the West Indies. West Indies skipper Carl Hooper believes their performance in Cape Town on February 9 will set the tone for their performance in the rest of the tournament.

South Africa won a one-day series 5-2 in the Caribbean in 2001, and beat West Indies by two wickets at last year's ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka. But Hooper said: "We have slowly but surely turned the corner."

He missed the last two World Cups for personal reasons and, at the age of 36, this is likely to be his last chance to make a mark on the competition.

"This is going to be a good launch pad to show West Indies cricket is back and a force to be reckoned with."

Captain Stephen Fleming refused to discuss New Zealand's match in Kenya after his team arrived in Africa.

They are due to play Kenya in Nairobi on February 21, but New Zealand cricket believes terrorist groups are operating in the Kenyan capital and want the match switched to South Africa.

"I don't think it's fair that the players should have to voice their opinions either way," said Fleming after their plane touched down at Johannesburg airport.

"There are experts on governing bodies that have to operate that way. We trust that process as players and if we can, just look forward to the cricket. It's the pinnacle for any player to play in the World Cup," he said.

Pressure is growing on the International Cricket Council to take a unilateral decision on the matches in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Six games are set to be held in Zimbabwe and two are due to be staged in Kenya.

But at this point, players from England and New Zealand are asking not to fulfil their fixtures in the two countries.

South Africa, which is already staging the remaining 46 games of the competition, may now be forced to incorporate the remaining ones.

England captain Nasser Hussain and coach Duncan Fletcher stonewalled questions on Zimbabwe when the team landed in Johannesburg on Tuesday evening.

Two security checks have deemed both Harare and Bulawayo safe venues for international cricket.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff said on Wednesday that the government had advised the national cricket team not to play in Kenya.

"There is a risk there," Goff told a news conference called to launch a revamp of the travel advisory section on his ministry's web site.

"The security advice given by the South African police that have cased out Nairobi is that they couldn't guarantee security would meet the possible threats that existed.

"I understand similar advice has been given by American authorities in Nairobi." Although the British government's travel advisories do not warn against visiting Kenya, Goff said New Zealand was following the example of Australia which has advised its citizens to defer all non-essential travel.

"Unless you regard a cricket match as essential, our advice would be to seek to have the game relocated," Goff said.

"That advice has been passed across."

Australia's World Cup squad will meet the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) later on Wednesday to discuss their concerns about playing a match in Zimbabwe.

"There are some concerns, there's no doubt about that," Australia captain Ricky Ponting told a news conference on Wednesday. "We'll be airing those today with the people from the ACB."

The World Cup champions are due to leave for South Africa on Thursday and are scheduled to play Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on February 24.

Ponting's comments followed an urgent request on Monday from England's Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) to move their World Cup match in Zimbabwe to South Africa.

A PCA statement said the players were increasingly concerned about the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe.

The World Cup is based in South Africa from February 9 to March 23 and only six of the 54 games are taking place in Zimbabwe.

Journalists and commentators travelling to Zimbabwe for the forthcoming World Cup have been warned that they may be prime targets for militant aggression in the country.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member of Parliament David Coltart said that "hate speech" in the country had affected certain sections of the community and journalists might suffer as a result.

"The world saw in Bosnia what can happen when 'hate speech' is repeated often enough and I hear hate speech directed against caucasians, particularly English ones, and Indians every day," Coltart said.

"It only takes a handful of people to become brainwashed for terrible consequences to result. An English journalist, for example, would be a prime target. For the ICC not to address these issues is simply a dereliction of their duty."

World Cup security chief Patrick Ronan admitted that there was "no specific legal obligation to provide for the safety and security of journalists" but added that he had "drawn up a list of dos and don'ts for the media that will be included in their World Cup guide".

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