Thatscricket - News - Olonga backs possible England boycott

Published: Thursday, January 22, 2004, 15:53 [IST]
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London:Former Zimbabwe cricketer Henry Olonga welcomed the news that England were on the verge of cancelling their tour of the strife-torn nation in protest at the policies of its President Robert Mugabe.

Olonga said that while any boycott was unlikely to change much in the short term, it would be part of a process that would help Zimbabwe become a democratic nation.

Next week an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) meeting will consider whether to go ahead with the tour, scheduled for November, after details of a report - compiled by one of its senior officials saying Mugabe's human rights record had to be a factor in the decision - were made public

At last year's World Cup Olonga and team-mate Andy Flower wore black armbands and issued a powerful statement mourning the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe, a move that effectively ended the duo's International careers.

Former pace bowler Olonga, the first black player to represent Zimbabwe, admitted, from a sporting perspective, it would be disappointing if the tour was cancelled.

"If England don't go, I think it will be sad, cricket will lose out," he told Sky Sports TV.

"But the reason we are in this situation is because Zimbabwe as a country has already lost through the bad leadership and governance of the President and whatever we can bring to highlight this dire situation in Zimbabwe is welcome by me and others."

But he said an England boycott would make little difference either to Mugabe or most Zimbabweans.

"I don't think it will have any effect on President for a start. From the lot of the average Zimbabwean person who lives in the country it probably won't change their lives either.

"But what we need in Zimbabwe is a change and that change will come about by a process, a process of constant pressure being applied on this government, that comes from little incidents and issues like this."

Olonga, now pursuing a music and broadcasting career in England having sustained a knee injury, said he felt no ill-will to those cricketers who continued to play for Zimbabwe.

"I still follow their progress with a lot of passion. I enjoy watching the team and I feel they are innocent victims caught in the crossfire."

However, he added, "The only thing, and I've said this in the past, is that I wish they were a bit more vocal in expressing their feelings about the country. "But they are not speaking out for good reasons. They might endanger themselves, their careers and their families and I understand that."

'England to call off Zimbabwe cricket tour'

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