Australia obliged to tour Zimbabwe: CA

Published: Thursday, May 10, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australian officials say they are obliged to go ahead with their scheduled tour of Zimbabwe despite calls from the government to boycott the trip.

Australia's foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer wants the tour cancelled in protest at Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

Downer was due to meet with Cricket Australia (CA) officials and the Australian Cricketers Association but CA spokesman Peter Young told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio the tour would only be cancelled if the safety of the players was at risk.

"The ICC policy is that it's obligatory for all ICC nations to visit each other regularly unless it's not safe or unless it is impossible for some reason beyond the control of the visiting nation," Young said.

Cricket Australia could be fined up to $2 million if they refuse to go ahead with the tour, although the fine would be wiped out if the government refused to let them go.

Downer said the government would not force the players to abandon the tour but would still pay the fine, despite concerns the money would end up going to Mugabe, who is the patron of Zimbabwe cricket.

"(The money) would go to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, and they would of course be able to do what they wanted with the money," Downer told reporters on Thursday.

"What we can do is try to persuade Cricket Australia that sending the world's greatest cricket team - not just any cricket team but the world's greatest cricket team - to Zimbabwe will be seen as a propaganda victory by the Mugabe regime."

Zimbabwean cricket has been in crisis for the past few years. The country is still recognised by the International Cricket Council, though the sport's ruling body has currently withdrawn its Test status

Countries that refuse to tour the African state can be fined but Australian leg-spinner Stuart MacGill lodged a personal protest in 2004, refusing to take part in his team's tour and telling selectors he could not "tour Zimbabwe and maintain a clear conscience".

Shortly after his announcement, Australia's tour was cancelled and no fines were imposed. Later that year, England's planned tour of the country was also postponed after the ICC took away Zimbabwe's Test status.

In 2005, the New Zealand government refused to issue visas to the Zimbabwe team and no fines were imposed.


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