Nasser Hussain is a bloody hero, praises Olonga
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003, 18:56 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
'A bunch of yes men who won't rock Mugabe's boat'
London: Former Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga has praised ex-England One-day captain Nasser Hussain and the rest of his team for refusing to play in his country during the World Cup. "Nasser Hussain is a bloody hero," Olonga told Thursday's 'Daily Mail'. His words appeared just hours before the present Zimbabwe team was due to arrive in London, where it will hold a media conference, for its two Test tour of England. During Zimbabwe's World Cup opener, in the capital Harare, against Namibia on February 10th, black fast bowler Olonga and white team-mate Andy Flower both wore black armbands and issued a statement mourning the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe. Both men quit international cricket after the tournament with Olonga, 26, narrowly escaping an attempt by Zimbabwe security forces to arrest him in South Africa. The pair are now in England with Flower back at Hussain's county Essex and Olonga at Kent club side Lashings in south-east England. Days after its stand England, after months of wrangling, confirmed it would not be playing its February 13th World Cup opener against Zimbabwe in Harare. England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chiefs said the prime worry was a letter they had received threatening violent reprisals against the team and their families if the game went ahead. But, by that stage, the England players had already issued a statement voicing their 'moral' concerns about playing in famine-affected Zimbabwe. And Olonga said, "At first I wasn't sure if Nasser and his boys took their decision for moral or security reasons but now I have spoken to quite a few people and I am pretty sure it was for the right reasons." Unlike many of Mugabe's critics in England, Olonga is not calling for the tour to be stopped. "It is right for the cricketers of my country to be here. That's because it puts the plight of Zimbabwe back in the headlines and anything that can focus attention on the starvation of six million people and the human rights abuses affecting millions more, black and white, must be a good thing," he explained. England's stance saw it forfeit four World Cup points. That proved costly when England failed to qualify for the second phase, an exit which was followed by Hussain's retirement from international One-day cricket. It was also financially damaging to the ECB. The International Cricket Council (ICC) withheld $ 3.5 million of its $ 9 million World Cup purse in lieu of any compensation claims lodged following the boycott. In order to avert a reciprocal no-show, ECB chairman David Morgan addressed a March board meeting of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) in Harare where his offer of an undisclosed compensation sum was accepted. Morgan also assured the ZCU that England's scheduled 2004 tour of Zimbabwe would go ahead. Zimbabwe's current tour begins on Saturday, against the British Universities, with the first Test starting at Lord's on May 22.