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Vaughan eager about facing the Proteas

Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:England cricket captain Michael Vaughan set off for the controversial One-day trip to Zimbabwe saying he could not wait for the main event of the team's winter programme, a five - Test series against South Africa.

England are due to play five - One day Internationals in Zimbabwe having come under pressure to call off their visit to the troubled African state in protest at the policies of President Robert Mugabe.

"The focus is already away from cricket," said Vaughan, at Heathrow where the players flew out for Zimbabwe on Monday.

"I think any cricket tour you go on when you get more questions about non-cricketing issues, and the cricket is the second most important thing, is very disappointing.

"It is going to be a tough two weeks but we are looking forward to South Africa and a great series," added Vaughan who during the course of the English season led his side to seven successive Test wins - England's best run for 75 years.

Meanwhile England coach Duncan Fletcher, a former Zimbabwe captain, said: "There are mixed emotions. I have spoken to a couple of Zimbabweans where I live, in Cape Town, I still have relatives in Zimbabwe and their feelings are mixed on whether the tour should go ahead."

With Zimbabwe still without several senior players because of a race row, England go into the series strong favourites to win 5-0 even though all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, fast bowler Stephen Harmison and opening batsman Marcus Trescothick are all staying at home.

But Fletcher said: "What I have learned is that you cannot say there are easy games in international cricket."

At last year's World Cup, England eventually withdrew from that match after months of wrangling, citing a terrorist threat to their players. Their decision cost them both World Cup points and a heavy fine.

Under International Cricket Council (ICC) rules they now face what the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) insist are massive financial penalties if they withdraw from the Zimbabwe tour on political or moral grounds.

Those opposed to the tour have suggested England could boycott the trip safe in the knowledge that the ICC would never enforce a heavy fine or lengthy suspension.

However ECB chairman David Morgan said such a strategy was unworkable.

"Some people say that England would never be suspended because we are such a popular side when we go abroad, we take so many people with us and so on and so on.

"That is not the issue, suspension could be for one home season and that would cripple us.

"I think everybody needs to understand that the finances of International cricket are made when countries host tours, you make no money when you go away."

England One-day Squad to tour Zimbabwe

Michael Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), James Anderson (Lancashire), Gareth Batty (Worcestershire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Paul Collingwood (Durham), Ashley Giles (Warwickshire), Darren Gough (Essex), Geraint Jones (Kent, wkt), Simon Jones (Glamorgan), Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire), Matthew Prior (Sussex), Vikram Solanki (Worcestershire), Andrew Strauss (Middlesex), Alex Wharf (Glamorgan)

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