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January 31, 2003 16:31 IST

The Professional Cricketers' Association expressed "significant disappointment" over the International Cricket Council's decision to allow Zimbabwe to host World Cup matches as planned.

PCA chief Richard Bevan now plans further talks with senior cricket bosses as he seeks to get England's fixture in Zimbabwe moved.

The ICC discussed the matter on Thursday and announced that England's match on February 13, and five others in the tournament, would go ahead.

England's players said on Monday they want the game moved, but England cricket chief David Morgan did not submit a formal request on their behalf.

"The announcement that all fixtures in the 2003 World Cup are to proceed as scheduled has led to significant disappointment from the PCA," a statement said.

"Richard Bevan will be discussing the security and safety issues that have been raised with the Team England players, representatives of the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), ICC World Cup security advisors and the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) chief Executive Tim May.

A former Zimbabwe player warned on Friday that safety at World Cup games in his country cannot be guaranteed.

Darrell Goodwin, 37, warned from his home in Harare of potential threats to cup matches by political splinter groups in the strife-torn country, the West Australian newspaper reported.

Goodwin, elder brother of Perth-based former Zimbabwe Test cricketer Murray Goodwin, issued his warning after the International Cricket Council ruled in London that matches in Zimbabwe and Kenya will go ahead as planned.

England players have called on the ICC to switch their match, scheduled for Harare, to South Africa, where the bulk of games in the February 8-March 23 tournament are scheduled to be played.

Thousands of children in animal costumes brought the Newlands turf alive with the sights and sounds of Africa during a spectacular dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

The Cape Times had the first glimpse on Wednesday night of what the opening ceremony will look like to the estimated 1.4 billion television viewers and 25,000 spectators expected to watch next Saturday's star-spangled extravaganza.

The shrill sounds of the African bush mix with sweet marimba notes as herds of prancing "springbok, zebra and baboons" set the stadium ablaze with colour in the opening safari-themed scene.

Four large watering holes magically appear on the covered pitch and giraffes stretch their necks to sip from the pools. Remote-controlled guinea pigs, with little ones in tow, scatter as crouching San hunters search for game.

Australia's cricketers stand to receive a record payout of $360,000 each if they retain the World Cup.

Under a deal struck with the Australian Cricket Board, the players get to keep the tournament prize-money which works out to around $300,000 each to win the final.

If Australia win the March 23 tournament decider, they will have played 11 games and their match fees will be between $60,000 and $70,000, paid in addition to the prize-money.

The deal is the greatest financial incentive offered to Australian players and dwarfs any previous payouts.

World Cup prize-money has more than quadrupled since the last tournament held in England four years ago through a $1billion sponsorship from Rupert Murdoch's Global Cricket Corporation.

If Australia win the Cup, the prize-money will usher through Australia's first generation of cricketers to earn more than $1million a year from the Australian Cricket Board. Australia's top three or four players on their contract list -- Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne -- would break through the $1million mark if Australia wins.

Kepler WesselsFormer South Africa captain  says Australia are a stronger team than the World Cup hosts.

Australia and South Africa are the favourites to win the World Cup which starts in Cape Town on February 9.

"They (Australia) are definitely a stronger side than South Africa and their path to the Super Six (second round) phase is more difficult," Wessels wrote in his column in Die Burger newspaper on Friday.

"So, if they are going to go through they will have to be at their best all the time," added Wessels, who also played for Australia.

"It looks like their key players are going to be fit for the tournament. It's unbelievable that Shane Warne is bowling again after what looked like a serious (shoulder) injury.

"Warne, who said he would retire from one-day cricket after the tournament, will be determined to end his career on a high note.

"It shows exactly where Australian cricketers' priorities lie. They enjoy one-day cricket but Test cricket is what really matters."

Wessels said he was also impressed by the form of some of the other Australian players.

A unique welcome awaits the Indian and Bangladeshi World Cup cricket teams in Pietermaritzburg -- they will travel to the city in the Gandhi Memorial steam train along the Gandhi route.

Amid fanfare and international media coverage, they will disembark at the historic site on the Pietermaritzburg station -- where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off a Natal Railways train on a cold night in June, 1893, and where the resolve he made then was to manifest in his future campaigns.

A new brochure entitled Gandhi in Pietermaritzburg is being published for the event to further cement the city with the moral icon.

During their visit, the Bangladeshi team will conduct a clinic for young cricketers at Imbali.

The Indian team will play a World Cup build-up match against the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins at the Oval on February 4 and Sri Lanka play Bangladesh on February 14.

Kenyan cricket authorities and government officials lauded the International Cricket Council for their confidence in the country to host the two World Cup matches in February.

"Thanks be to God that the decision has gone our way," said Kenya Cricket Association chairman Jimmy Rayani after receiving the decision of the ICC Executive Board's crucial meeting in London.

The meeting was scheduled to decide on the two matches involving Kenya against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, which had been shrouded in controversy following a security scare.

"The whole matter had been blown out of proportion. We are very glad and now look forward for the preparations. There is a lot for the Kenyan public to look forward to," Rayani said.

Rayani, who is also a director of the ICC Executive Board thanked the South African government and its cricket board for the support they have given to Kenya in securing security would be beefed up. There were celebrations in various cricket grounds in Nairobi to welcome the decision.

The decision to press ahead with World Cup cricket games in Zimbabwe and Kenya was also welcomed by the tournament's executive director, Dr Ali Bacher.

He said: "It has always been our un wavering belief that the six matches scheduled for Zimbabwe and the two in Kenya would go ahead as planned.

"We are glad that we can now concentrate on adding the final touches to the arrangements in both countries as we have done in South Africa and we are looking forward to cricket lovers attending the matches in those countries in their thousands."

After an executive board tele conference earlier on Thursday, International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed said the Zimbabwe and Kenya games would go ahead.


Making money from the deal is reported to have been harder than it seemed when they paid $550m (approximately Rs 2600 crore) for the rights in June 2000, at the peak of the sports TV market.

So concerned is the International Cricket Council that the GCC will seek to get out of the deal, or at least cut their losses through legal action, that delivering the tournament it promised has become paramount.

These fears have influenced ICC's every step during a winter strewn with crises from India's dispute over player sponsorship to English reluctance to travel to Zimbabwe.

If this $550m deal goes wrong, all the cricket world will feel the effects for years.

England have yet to win the World Cup and if they break their duck this year it will be some achievement. And not just because of the row over whether their tournament opener against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13 should go ahead.

On Monday, the England players said via a statement they wanted the match moved from the famine-threatened nation to main World Cup hosts South Africa on safety grounds.

But that has left the team in conflict with the International Cricket Council who, even after Thursday's executive board meeting, were insisting the match would go ahead as scheduled.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, the issue has clearly irked Hussain. When questioned about Zimbabwe upon the team's arrival in Johannesburg, he said: "I don't really want to run around in circles here.

"This tournament is about the World Cup, it's about Africa, it's about all the hard work that's been put in already.

Roland LefebvreThe Netherlands are led by veteran skipper Roland Lefebvre, who was also in charge when the Dutch first made the finals back in 1996.

He knows that the bitter experience in the Champions Trophy was a hard pill to swallow, admitting that the defeat by Pakistan was hard to take.

"We got hammered. I didn't expect the game to be over that quick," Lefebvre said after Pakistan, chasing just 137 to win, achieved their target in just 16.2 overs.

That game was only the Dutchmen's seventh full one-day international but at least they batted the distance of 50 overs.

"I am glad we stayed for 50 overs and that was one of the positives from the match," said Lefebvre, who was his side's top scorer in that game with 32 followed by fellow veteran Tim de Leede, who scored 24.

Against Sri Lanka, they had been skittled out for just 86 chasing a massive 292-6.

West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels is flying to the United States on Thursday to seek medical treatment on his left knee, the West Indies Cricket Board said.

Samuels was withdrawn from the World Cup squad at the weekend to be replaced by all rounder Ryan Hinds.

Last February, Samuels, 22, had an operation on the same knee and was out of action for several months.

The West Indies play South Africa in the opening game of the World Cup in Cape Town on February 9.

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