London: Graham Gooch backed England captain Nasser Hussain's call on Sunday for the British government to decide on whether the team should play World Cup matches in Zimbabwe. "It is ridiculous to put all the pressure on the sportsmen and the players themselves to make their decision," the former England captain told BBC Radio.
"The government and the authorities should get together and come to an informed decision," added Gooch, a former Essex and England teammate of Hussain's. "They know exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe and should take a line which is consistent with what the country wants," Gooch, now the Essex coach, added. "But to put all the pressure on the individuals, I don't think is right," insisted Gooch who was banned from official international cricket for three years after going on a rebel England tour of South Africa in 1982.
England is due to play its opening match of the tournament against Zimbabwe on February 13 in the capital Harare. And debate is raging about whether it should play or pull out in protest at Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's alleged abuses of human rights and the electoral process and the forcible eviction of white farmers from their land. Hussain, writing in his column in the broadsheet 'Sunday Telegraph' newspaper, said, "A few years ago I was a lad playing cricket for Ilford 2nd XI, and now I'm expected to make a political judgement on whether or not I should lead the England team to Zimbabwe and perhaps shake the Zimbabwe President by the hand.
"It must be right that the decision is made at a higher level than sport, by a government body," added Hussain who is currently leading England in the fourth Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed warned on Sunday that teams would forfeit points if they pulled out of World Cup matches in Zimbabwe. "If the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) said it wasn't going to play that game because it had been told by the government it was not to play that game, it would forfeit the points," Speed told reporters.
However, the Australian added, "If it was to say it won't play that game because it believes it is unsafe for players and officials to play that game', there is a process that has been put in place and is being finalised over the next couple of days. "It could obtain a ruling as to safety and security - if the ruling was in its favour, it would share the points with Zimbabwe," said Speed.