Aussie Cricket Academy team go to Zimbabwe

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia will send their first cricket team to Zimbabwe next month since the troubled tour of 2004, Cricket Australia said.

A Cricket Academy side will play three matches against Zimbabwe's One-day side as part of a three-week African tour which also takes in South Africa and Kenya.

The Zimbabwe visit is the first since the senior team's controversial tour two years ago, which bowler Stuart MacGill boycotted in protest at human rights abuses and when the Test series was cancelled after player disputes weakened the home side.

The New Zealand government last year refused to allow Zimbabwe to tour in protest at what it called the abuse of democratic principles by the southern African country's president, Robert Mugabe.

However, academy coach Tim Nielsen reiterated Cricket Australia and International Cricket Council (ICC) policy that the only valid reason for not playing in Zimbabwe would be if player safety was compromised.

"Politically it's not my place to say, I'm going there to play cricket under the ICC set-up," Nielsen said told the cricinfo.com website. "The only reason we wouldn't tour was if there was a safety issue.

"We're going there to play good cricket against their national teams as part of the ICC family. As long as we're safe and secure we're happy to help out."

Nielsen said the team would travel with a security guard but pre-tour reports had satisfied him that Zimbabwe was safe.

The country is in the throes of an economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation, widespread unemployment and chronic shortages of basic goods.

The academy's 14-player squad travels to Africa next Wednesday.

It is made up of promising young players with scholarships at the Adelaide-based academy that Australian cricket chiefs want to provide with international exposure.

Past graduates from the academy include current Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist and fast bowlers Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.

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