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 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 10:18 GMT
Q&A: England's Zimbabwe dilemma

Q. Why are politicians calling for England to boycott Zimbabwe?

Nasser Hussain
England toured Zimbabwe in October 2001
A. The regime of President Robert Mugabe is widely blamed for near-famine conditions in the country, an economic decline and an increase in violence.

Politicians, especially in the UK and Australia, feel that playing there would be a sign of support for Mugabe, who is also president of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.

Q. Which games are involved?

A. Six matches in next year's Cricket World Cup are scheduled for Bulawayo and the capital Harare.

But England are only involved in one, against the hosts in Harare on 13 February. Most of the rest of the tournament is to be held in South Africa.

Q. Why are the cricket authorities organising matches in Zimbabwe when there is all this opposition?

World Cup games in Zimbabwe
10 Feb Zim v Namibia, Harare
13 Feb Zim v England, Harare
19 Feb Zim v India, Harare
24 Feb Zim v Australia, Bulawayo
28 Feb Zim v Netherlands, Bulawayo
4 Mar Zim v Pakistan, Bulawayo
A. The International Cricket Council (ICC) contends that it is only interested in the safety of players and officials, and will not get involved in politics.

An ICC delegation visited Zimbabwe in November and pronounced it safe, although it admitted that conditions could deteriorate before February.

Q. What happens if England decide not to go, or are stopped from going by the government?

A. They would forfeit to Zimbabwe the four points available and could struggle to qualify for the second round of the World Cup.

They could also be sued for up to 1m for breaking contractual obligations, and Zimbabwe could even cancel their tour of England next summer.

Q. Could they claim it is not safe to go and get out of it that way?

A. The ICC is finalising a method for determining whether a team is justified in pulling out on safety grounds. If it decides the claim is fair, the points would be shared, but the team could still be at a disadvantage.

Q. What do the other teams scheduled to play in Zimbabwe think?

Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting
Australia now insist they will make the trip if it is safe
A. Neither India nor Pakistan appear perturbed, with Pakistan having recently completed a tour there.

Australia called off a trip last April, supposedly on safety grounds. They say they will make the trip this time as long as it remains safe, but also face political opposition.

Namibia and the Netherlands both joined the ICC delegation in November, but they have little influence on the major nations.

Q. What would happen if England simply went ahead with the trip?

A. England toured Zimbabwe in October 2001, despite calls for them to cancel.

The team are unlikely to be placed in danger, but there have been threats from Mugabe's political opponents to peacefully disrupt the matches. And a political row at home can only disrupt England's preparations.

Q. What happens if the situation in Zimbabwe becomes seriously unsafe?

A. The tournament organisers have a contingency plan in place to switch all of the matches to South Africa at short notice, with the east-coast town of Pietermaritzburg favourite.

Q. What is the position for fans travelling to watch England play?

A. The ICC's report claims that Zimbabwe is safe for sensible tourists, although oddly it suggests one precaution for visitors might be "avoiding crowds".

 Tim Lamb, ECB chief executive
"The Foreign Office have made clear that the government is happy to leave the decision to us"
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision


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