Sydney: The Australian government has warned cricket fans they risk being caught up in violent political clashes at World Cup cricket matches in Zimbabwe, stepping up pressure on tournament organisers to abandon fixtures in the strife-torn African nation. The Foreign Affairs Department strengthened its official travel advisory about Zimbabwe ahead of the national One-day team's scheduled match in Bulawayo on February 24, urging Australians in the country to avoid large public gatherings.
"Political protests are expected in connection with the cricket World Cup in February, with a risk of violent clashes with police, and Australians should take particular precautions to avoid any such protests or other political activity," the advisory said. "Heavy police responses to past protests in Zimbabwe have resulted in injury to protesters and innocent bystanders, and the police is likely to respond forcefully to protests during the World Cup, including possibly with use of teargas," it said.
About 400 Australian fans have bought tickets for the Bulawayo match. Australian cricket chiefs were scheduled to hold emergency talks in Johannesburg early this week to decide on whether to pull out of the match. The Australian government has stopped short of telling the national side not to go to Bulawayo, although it has said it would be willing to contribute towards compensation costs for the Zimbabwe Cricket Union if it is cancelled. The World Cup holders are due to leave for South Africa on Thursday.