Sydney: Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Monday urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to reconsider staging games in Zimbabwe during the 2003 World Cup.
Howard said the ICC needed to recognise there were broader issues surrounding playing in Zimbabwe, describing President Robert Mugabe's government as "completely illegitimate, undemocratic, stolen". "What I am saying to the International Cricket Council is please look at this again," he told a television channel. But Howard said his government would not attempt to stop Australia playing matches in Zimbabwe because any cricketing boycott of the Southern African nation "should be a case of all in or all out".
The ICC said on Sunday teams that boycotted Zimbabwe on political grounds would forfeit match points. It was satisfied that its major criteria of player safety could be met in the country, it said. Howard said that meant Australia would be disadvantaged in the World Cup competition if it unilaterally refused to play in Zimbabwe. "If you get a situation where some teams play in Zimbabwe and some teams don't, the teams that don't play in Zimbabwe might be disadvantaged in the competition," he said.
"I would hope that the ICC would revisit this issue. I am disappointed that they took the decision they did." Australia is scheduled to play a match in Bulawayo on March 23, one of six World Cup matches due to be played in Zimbabwe.