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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 19:09 GMT
Looking to the future
Three matches will be staged in Harare
Three matches will be staged in Harare

Officials of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief after hearing that they will be staging six World Cup matches as originally planned.

The Union has invested heavily in preparing for the matches and would have missed out on a substantial share of profits as hosts if the International Cricket Council had voted to move the games to South Africa.

The development of cricket in Zimbabwe would also have suffered a huge setback, with development projects mapped out for the next four years on the basis of funds expected from the World Cup.

Zimbabwe lost money when Australia pulled out of a tour in April citing security concerns.

ZCU president Peter Chingoka
Peter Chingoka was not surprised by the decision

But while there has been much debate over the suitability of Zimbabwe as a World Cup venue in the current political climate, officials were adamant that the country is a safe destination for players, officials and supporters.

"We were all confident that if the inspection was purely a matter of safety and security that there would be no issue at all to be concerned about," said ZCU president Peter Chingoka.

"We were expecting the verdict to go this way because we've always said that it's perfectly safe and secure to come to Zimbabwe and play cricket.

"We're gratified to know that the inspection team did its job well and carefully, although we know that some will have own their own views different from ours"

More than 400m Zimbabwe dollars (4.5m) have been spent on upgrading the two stadiums to be used for the matches in Harare and Bulawayo, as well as on medical and security arrangements and other related costs.

Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga
Zimbabwe play Namibia in their first game

The future progress of the game in Zimbabwe hinges on the World Cup being a profitable exercise.

"Our plans for the next four years are largely dependent on revenue to come from the World Cup, plans from the national team down to our schools programme and for taking the game to new areas of the country," said Chingoka.

Cricket is the fastest-growing sport in Zimbabwe, but is not played in most of the country's rural areas.

Large crowds are expected for the matches to be held at Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, particularly for the games against England and Australia.

And the ZCU is hoping that at a time when the eyes of the world are on Zimbabwe for a very different reason, cricket at least can strike a positive note.

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 ON THIS STORY
 ICC chief Malcolm Speed
"Our decisions are based on cricket issues"
Cricket World Cup 2003 begins on 8 February in South Africa

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