Australian tour a shot in the arm, former Zim coach

Published: Tuesday, April 27, 2004, 22:33 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia will provide a much-needed boost for ailing Zimbabwean cricket by touring there next month, former Zimbabwe coach Carl Rackemann said.

But the former Australian Test fast bowler is saddened at the crisis engulfing the sport in the troubled African nation.

As debate rages over whether Australia should go ahead with their tour, the moral question of playing in Zimbabwe, under the regime of Robert Mugabe, has been complicated by the inept performances of the country's drastically-weakened team against Sri Lanka.

With most of Zimbabwe's best players not available for selection as they continue to support recently-deposed captain Heath Streak, the team has been left in tatters and was bowled out for a world record 35 in the third One-day match against Sri Lanka on the weekend.

Rackemann, who coached Zimbabwe from December 1999 to October 2001, said a visit by the world's top team would provide a shot in the arm and help stave off fears cricket could be doomed in Zimbabwe.

"International tours are vitally important for Zimbabwe, obviously to fund the game through TV rights, but also for the juniors and the badly-needed development of the game for the sake of the kids," Rackemann said.

"It's disappointing to see there's players out and they're having those difficulties, so obviously I'm hoping to read some good news."

Australian cricket officials are yet to receive any new concerns from players preparing to depart on May 13 following the decision of leg-spinner Stuart MacGill not to make himself available on moral grounds.

Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) hold grave concerns over the situation in Zimbabwe and ACA chief executive Tim May said it had the potential to cheapen Test cricket.

"There's no doubt about it, it devalues international cricket," May said on Tuesday. "We won't be surprised at what may happen with a substandard side."

Australia can only pull out of the tour through Government intervention or because of security fears.

Former Zimbabwe all-rounder Eddo Brandes on Tuesday joined the chorus urging Australia not to tour.

Brandes, now coaching on Queensland's Sunshine Coast after playing 10 Tests for Zimbabwe in the 1990s, said unless his former teammates returned to the side the coming matches would serve no benefit to either side.

"The players won't be enjoying it, that's for sure," Brandes said.

"If I was an Australian player I wouldn't want to be playing against substandard opposition and I'd want to have the trip postponed.

"If it can't be sorted out it's the history of the game that is being affected and even Sri Lanka would not have enjoyed bowling a side out for 35 and you can bet the side being annihilated wouldn't have enjoyed it."

Brandes and his family settled in Australia partly because of the troubles in their former home under the Mugabe regime.

"I have three daughters aged nine, seven and five and the future for them looked increasing difficult," Brandes said.

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