Hussain will not shake hands with Mugabe, says ECB

Published: Monday, January 13, 2003, 16:26 [IST]
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London: England captain Nasser Hussain will not shake Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's hand in any pre-match ceremony should the team go ahead with its World Cup match next month against the African nation in Harare. England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tim Lamb told BBC Radio on Sunday, "We've made it perfectly clear that we are not going to put our players, Nasser Hussain - or indeed myself, because I shall be out at the match - in a situation where we have to shake hands with the President of Zimbabwe. "If there is any suggestion such a ceremony will be arranged then we will decline to participate." England has come under intense political pressure from the British government to pull out of what is due to be its opening match of the World Cup in protest against Mugabe's policies, which include the forcible eviction of white farmers from their land. The ECB's 15-member management board is due to meet at Lord's on Tuesday to decide whether England should play in Zimbabwe. ECB chairman David Morgan has already indicated that he expects the board to go ahead with the match. "I went to Zimbabwe recently and I know there is a morally reprehensible regime in place in that country," he said. "But we believe there are many more meaningful ways in which the British government and the international community can express its displeasure at President Mugabe. "We continue to believe it is perverse and inequitable that cricket is expected to make what amounts to no more than a token and symbolic gesture when there have been no international sporting sanctions applied against Zimbabwe, and they haven't been expelled from the Commonwealth. "We don't believe that cancelling one cricket match will help to put food into people's stomachs and fuel into people's cars. "I fail to understand that playing in Harare means we are supporting the regime in Zimbabwe - any more than playing in Sri Lanka means we are supporting the Sinhalese stance towards the Tamils, or playing in Pakistan means we are condoning military rule in preference to Democracy. "When our athletes are preparing to go to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics will that be seen as an endorsement of Chinese atrocities in Tibet? I just wonder." Morgan's comments came in the wake of a meeting on Thursday between the ECB and Sports Secretary Tessa Jowell ended with the government refusing to offer compensation if the team withdrew from the fixture. Despite its opposition to the match, the government has insisted that the final decision is one for the cricket authorities alone. Lamb said while he sympathised with political worries about the Mugabe regime he could not ignore the financial consequences of an England withdrawal. "I have already said on the record that I don't think I can recommend to the management board that we rescind our decision to play without compensation because it could literally damage permanently the fabric of English and Welsh cricket," he said. Both the ICC and ECB have repeatedly said that the only reason for calling off the Harare match and the five other World Cup fixtures in Zimbabwe would be on safety grounds.

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