London: The England players' representative Richard Bevan said on Wednesday the team's World Cup opener in Harare must be moved to South Africa after the US State Department urged Americans to consider leaving the country. The US advice came after the England players issued a statement on Monday saying they wanted their match against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13 moved to main World Cup hosts South Africa on safety grounds.
The State Department said, "Zimbabwe is in the midst of political, economic and humanitarian crises with serious implications for the security situation in the country. "All US citizens in Zimbabwe are urged to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well being, including consideration of departure." Current advice issued by the British Foreign Office urges its citizens to exercise caution but has not yet told them to leave Zimbabwe.
Bevan said the American warning provided the International Cricket Council (ICC) with further evidence for moving England's match. "It is another example of the escalation of the troubles over recent weeks," said Bevan, the managing director of England's Professional Cricketers Association. "And it questions quotes from the reports that Zimbabwe has the expertise, infrastructure and capability to deliver a safe and secure event. "Well I can't see that being the case," Bevan added.
"I will be speaking with (ICC chief executive) Malcolm Speed on a number of points, which hopefully will get to the right decision from our point of view." ICC's Australian president Malcolm Gray, also speaking on the 'Today' programme, said cricket chiefs were keeping the situations in Zimbabwe and Kenya under review. "We understand the concerns that have been expressed by the players, but at the moment those games scheduled for Zimbabwe and Kenya are going ahead."
Bevan said he was sure Gray's fellow Australian Speed was sympathetic to the players' concerns, but added that teams should have the right to move their matches. "I am sure Malcolm Speed has been taking advice on duty of care, not only to players, umpires, administrators - there also is a great concern for everybody now. "If the demonstrations become mass demonstrations, then the danger to Zimbabwe people... and the people at the game could be major." He added, "The army and police have a history of using brute force."
Last week Speed said World Cup matches could be moved from Zimbabwe as late as four days in advance, leaving open the possibility that a final decision may not be reached until the tournament is underway.