Johannesburg: England captain Nasser Hussain insisted on Wednesday that Zimbabwe's cricketers would understand why his side had pulled out of its controversial World Cup opener against the co-hosts in Harare on February 13. And he went out his way to applaud the decision taken by his Essex teammate and Zimbabwe stalwart Andy Flower who, together with international colleague Henry Olonga, wore a black armband during their side's first match against Namibia in Harare on Monday. The duo also issued a statement lamenting "the death of Democracy" in famine- threatened Zimbabwe.
England, after months of agonising, said on Tuesday its would not go ahead with the fixture because of security fears brought about by a death threat. Hussain said he had frequently spoken to Flower about England's dilemma. "In the two days when both of the sides were in Cape Town, I spoke to Andy Flower a lot, as I have done all winter about this, and even he has gone one way and then the other," Hussain said.
"He wasn't sure what we should do and couldn't really advise us and he had is own decisions to make," he told reporters in Cape Town. Turning to Flower's protest, Hussain said, "I know Andy Flower very well, and he has been a credit to the game by making the brave decision he did. "I don't know Henry Olonga as well, but they have proved to be great men by what they have done in the last few days." Flower and Olonga's statement was a thinly veiled attack on the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and has seen the pair reported to the World Cup's event technical committee by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).
But Hussain, trying to ensure his team did not become mired in further controversy, insisted, "The last thing we want to do is to get involved in the politics of the situation in someone else's country - we've got to try and stay off politics because we're cricketers and we're here to play cricket." And he added that the team was genuinely unhappy about boycotting Thursday's match. "That is the one bad thing that has come out of this - not going to tomorrow's (Thursday) game," claimed Hussain.
"There will be a ground there we like playing at and I'm sure there has been a lot of effort that has gone into that game." As the Zimbabwe issue drags on, Hussain revealed that Craig White's World Cup could be over before it has started. Yorkshire all-rounder White has experienced a recurrence of the side strain problems that cut short his Ashes tour of Australia and was due to see a doctor on Wednesday. Hussain said, "He (White) has a history of side problems and we have to address it this afternoon because we're getting to the 12th hour now and we have some decisions to make." Surrey and former England One-day captain Adam Hollioake is the most likely candidate to come in for White in the event Hussain and coach Duncan Fletcher opt for a replacement.
| Copyright AFP 2001 |