Thatscricket - News - Cricket Australia to decide after Zim visit

Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2004, 18:41 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia's cricket authority will visit Zimbabwe in March before making a decision on whether accede to a Government request that it cancel the upcoming tour of the troubled African country, officials said.

But in a statement after an official call to cancel the May tour in protest against the policies of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, Cricket Australia (CA) made it clear safety and security were its only considerations.

"We are aware of the difficult situation in Zimbabwe, just as we are aware that there are diverse political, social and economic issues in other countries we visit," Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland said on Wednesday.

"Our long-standing position is that we are cricketers, and our visits have no other symbolism than that."

He said the authority supports the International Cricket Council (ICC) future tours plan strategy, which requires all Test-playing nations to play each other at home at least once every five years as a mechanism to help develop cricket as a genuinely global sport.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier that going ahead with the tour would "send the wrong message" to both Zimbabwe and neighboring South Africa, a strong Mugabe ally.

"We'd rather it didn't go ahead, obviously the Zimbabwe government would be pleased if it did," Downer told commercial radio.

Prime Minister John Howard spearheaded moves to suspend Zimbabwe from the 54-member Commonwealth after Mugabe was re-elected last March in polls widely seen as fraudulent.

Howard and British counterpart Tony Blair successfully countered efforts led by South Africa and Nigeria to obtain Zimbabwe's re-admission to the Commonwealth during a group summit meeting in Nigeria in December.

The authority said Australian cricket officials and players' representatives would visit Zimbabwe in March "to assess the situation first hand."

Its immediate priorities were the triangular series currently underway in Australia between Australia, India and Zimbabwe followed by a tour to Sri Lanka from February and the authority would turn its mind to Zimbabwe more seriously after the inspection visit.

"Such visits are routine before all overseas tours and as always, safety and security is our only issue," Sutherland said. "We will only travel if we are satisfied it is safe to travel.

But he added, "We welcome the Governments consistent position that the decision is ours to make."

The chairman of cricket's world governing body the International Cricket Council (ICC) earlier said he expects England to call off their tour of Zimbabwe.

"I think the reality is that England will not tour Zimbabwe in November," ICC chairman Ehsan Mani was quoted as saying in Wednesday's edition of The Times, ahead of a meeting on Thursday of the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) management Board.

The British government has also strongly advised the ECB to call off the tour in protest, but has stopped short of ordering a cancellation.

Australia cancelled a tour to Zimbabwe in 2002 because of safety concerns following its troubled elections. But it played one match in the country last year as part of the World Cup tournament.

Aussie Government asks to forfeit Zim Tour

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