London: Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan called on Friday for a cricket boycott of England if Britain goes to war with Iraq, saying it is the "one language" Prime Minister Tony Blair understands.
The British and Australian governments have called, unsuccessfully, for their cricket teams to boycott matches in Zimbabwe during the forthcoming World Cup in protest at the human rights abuses of President Robert Mugabe. Imran, who led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup, said an Anglo-American war against Iraq would lead to the deaths of thousands of his fellow Muslims. He also accused Blair of hypocrisy. "Doesn't Mr Blair's acute sensitivity to the plight of the Zimbabwean people look just a little ironic next to his apparent readiness to vapourise thousands of Iraqis? A little rich even?" the legendary all- rounder wrote in Friday's 'Guardian' newspaper.
Imran, 50, who now leads his own Pakistani political party, the Tehreek-e-Insaf (Justice Movement), added, "Although I refused to play in apartheid South Africa I have never been a great enthusiast for sporting boycotts - there are so many countries with questionable records on human rights that the overzealous boycotter could find himself left with nowhere to play. "But if and when this cynical war begins - and especially if it inflicts large numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties - other cricketing countries will have to ask themselves a tricky question: should they play in England, a country quite prepared to visit far more destruction on Iraq than Mr Mugabe has ever visited on his own land? "Perhaps it is time to entertain the unthinkable: a cricket boycott of the home of cricket.
Might that be one language Mr Blair would understand?" Imran has close ties to Britain. He went to school in England, attended Oxford University and played for both Sussex and Worcestershire. He is also married to a Briton, Jemima Goldsmith.