Australia to hold emergency talks over Zimbabwe boycott

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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London: Australian cricket chiefs are to hold emergency talks late on Monday increasing fears that they might pull out of their World Cup game in Zimbabwe. Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) chief executive Tim May and Australian Cricket Board (ACB) boss James Sutherland have arrived in Johannesburg to meet with Australia's High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Jonathan Brown. And they are likely to be told that Bulawayo will not be a safe venue for their team's 24 February One-dayer, BBC radio suggested on Monday.

Australia's World Cup players are known to be worried about playing in Zimbabwe despite the International Cricket Council's (ICC) decision that it is safe. The squad met with the ACB on Wednesday to highlight its concerns and will convene again after a warm-up game against North West in Potchefstroom on Tuesday. ACA chief executive Tim May said after the first meeting, "The players have concerns. That doesn't mean that they're not going to go." The ICC meets to discuss World Cup safety issues on Thursday following a request by the England team to move its match to South Africa. There are also safety concerns over Kenya, which is scheduled to host two World Cup matches.

New Zealand has threatened to boycott its match in Nairobi and has urged the ICC to switch the game to South Africa. ACB chief executive James Sutherland said Australia had pulled out of matches before on safety grounds. He said, "We've done that before in the last 12 months and I think that should be an indication that we're prepared to do it here and now." Australia Prime Minister John Howard wants the match moved from Zimbabwe. He said, "I can't put my hand on my heart and say you mustn't go there for safety reasons, although it is not the safest place in the world.

"I think it would be a good thing if the ICC listened to the views of Australia and New Zealand and England and cancelled that part of the World Cup in Zimbabwe. "For Australia's part, we are prepared to contribute to any cost that would be involved for the ACB or for cricket generally. "My suspicion is that a lot the players feel that way."

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