London: Zimbabwe's top cricket official, Peter Chingoka, has urged England and Australia not to boycott World Cup matches scheduled to take place in the troubled African country.
The chairman of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) told the BBC on Saturday the two countries would only be penalising Zimbabwean cricket if they heeded pressure from their governments to pull out of their matches. "All cricketers - black and white - deserve an opportunity to play in this World Cup in Zimbabwe," he said. But Chingoka insisted that people involved in cricket in the country should not be penalised for the alleged abuses of the regime.
"Over the last two years we have put in a lot of effort to make sure we can get our two venues up to standard," Chingoka said. "Altogether structural improvement and the setting up of an office has cost Z$ 400 million ($ 4.5million) and we believe we deserve a return on that investment. "Directly the World Cup organisation employs about 220 people so the extended family means at least a 1,000 mouths are fed through cricket.
Indirectly I would guess, all told, a total of 5,000 people are fed through cricket. They need this opportunity and they need the World Cup to be a success. "All the counties have an obligation to make sure that the International Cricket Council provides 54 matches at the World Cup. I am sure there will be maximum and honest endeavour to make sure we have the six matches played in Zimbabwe as scheduled." Chingoka also insisted Zimbabwe was a safe destination for England fans, although he does not expect tickets to be available for long.
He added, "We've had the Barmy Army follow the England team in Zimbabwe, they seem to have had a really good time then and nothing has changed since then. With the exchange rate as it is it is the place to be."