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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 15:02 GMT
Zimbabwe given green light
Nasser Hussain plays a square cut
England last played in Zimbabwe in October 2001
The International Cricket Council has given the go-ahead for Zimbabwe to stage matches during the World Cup.

The ICC's international development board (IDI) took the decision after receiving a 12-page report from a delegation which recently visited Zimbabwe to assess safety issues.

Although South Africa is the main host of the competition, six first round games will be played in Zimbabwe and two in Kenya.

Controversy continues, however, with opposition leaders in Zimbabwe and a number of English MPs calling for a boycott because of the policies being pursued by president Robert Mugabe's government.

The ICC is a cricket organisation - not a political institution

ICC chief Malcolm Speed

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram recently claimed that Mr. Mugabe would see the tournament as an opportunity for "strutting on the world stage".

But ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said they were only concerned with cricket-related issues.

"Some countries have issued limited sanctions on Zimbabwe, but no country has imposed sporting sanctions on Zimbabwe.

"Sporting sanctions are not a new weapon. The point here is they have not been used in relation to Zimbabwe and there have been many opportunities to adopt that course.

"Zimbabwe is one of the 10 full members of the ICC and has earned the right to host matches.

"There is common ground that Zimbabwe is a troubled country, but our aim is to try and bring a positive element to people in Zimbabwe, those who are interested in cricket and want to watch cricket."

Little impact

UK Sports Minister Richard Caborn has indicated that the government will abide by the decisions of the ICC and England and Wales Cricket Board.

And former England captain Mike Gatting said he doubted whether refusing to play in Zimbabwe would have a significant impact on the Mugabe government in any event.

World Cup games in Zimbabwe
10 Feb Zimbabwe v Namibia, Harare
13 Feb Zimbabwe v England, Harare
19 Feb Zimbabwe v India, Harare
24 Feb Zimbabwe v Australia, Bulawayo
28 Feb Zimbabwe v Netherlands, Bulawayo
4 Mar Zimbabwe v Pakistan, Bulawayo

"I don't think anybody likes what's going out there, sportsmen included. I think again the politicians have handed sports people a lovely hot potato to carry, when we can't do much about it.

"Even if the tour is cancelled, would that make any difference at all to Mr. Mugabe?

"In South Africa it might have done because they are much more sport-oriented, but I'm not sure it will do in Zimbabwe," Gatting commented.

The Australian Cricket Board pulled their team out of a tour to Zimbabwe earlier this year because of security concerns.

But a recent series against Pakistan passed off without incident, a series which coincided with the visit of the ICC delegation.

Should the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorate, however, the ICC has put contingency arrangements in place to switch games to South Africa.

Speed also said the Zimbabwe government has given assurances that all officially accredited journalists would be allowed into the country to report on the cricket.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 ICC chief Malcolm Speed
"Our decisions are based on cricket issues"
 ECB chief Tim Lamb
"Our business is sport"
 Zimbabwe Cricket Union chief Vince Hogg
"This is great news for the man on the street"
Cricket World Cup 2003 begins on 8 February in South Africa

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19 Dec 02 | Cricket
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