London: Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak received the thumbs up from his father Dennis on Thursday over his public support for the country to keep the six matches it is hosting in next month's World Cup. While Pakistan has said it will play its match in Zimbabwe both Australia and England have hinted strongly they could pull out because of the human rights abuses perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe and his democratically-elected government.
However Dennis Streak, who was imprisoned for three days last year by Mugabe's police force and had three quarters of his farm seized under the government Land Laws, said his son had been right to insist Zimbabwe kept the matches. "I don't believe politics should play any role in sport," the 72-year-old Streak senior told the 'Times'. "I've been surprised by the recriminations that have followed Heath. "Quite often they have come from people who didn't realise we live on a farm. He's now being targeted by a group called Zim-Activism, the kind of people who think the only way to bring down the government is to oppose everything.
"Heath likes to concentrate on cricket matters but as a captain he has a role to play and he believes he is duty bound to talk about these things." Streak senior said he had bitter experience of how politics could affect one's sporting career having been part of the then Rhodesia side which also included present England coach Duncan Fletcher. "I lost out back in the Rhodesia days because of sanctions. So I know what it is like to be isolated from international sport. We didn't have Test status then but maybe we'd have got it earlier if that hadn't been the case."
Heath Streak, who became the first Zimbabwean to play in the English County Championship when he joined Hampshire in the early 90's, had told the BBC on Thursday as far as he was concerned the matches should go ahead. "I think things should go ahead. I believe the security of the teams coming here is perfect and we are looking forward to hosting the matches." England's cricket authorities - headed by David Graveneny who led a rebel tour to South Africa when sports contacts were forbidden because of the apartheid regime but who says they shouldn't play in Zimbabwe - are to hold talks with the British Government next week to discuss the matter. Any team withdrawing from a match risks forfeiting the points.