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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Australia ready to pull out
Heath Streak
Heath Streak and his fellow rebels are back in the nets

Australia will immediately return home from Zimbabwe if their imminent series is stripped of Test status.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said there was no point continuing with the tour if the matches lost their official backing.

"The Australian cricket team has gone to Zimbabwe to play Test and one-day cricket," Sutherland said.

"If we are not going to play that, then I'm not sure that it is appropriate for us to be there."

The International Cricket Council will decide on Friday whether to downgrade the status of the series after Zimbabwe sacked 15 players following a dispute over quotas.

Australia is among the 10 member nations that will vote on the issue.

One of the rebels, batsman Grant Flower, has said they will not play in the Tests - but hinted that a resolution could be not too far away.

"We are not available for selection for the two test matches against Australia, but we could be for the one-day internationals," he commented.

A vastly depleted Zimbabwe were hammered recently at home by Sri Lanka, prompting the ICC to consider the worth of Australia's visit.

Greg Chappell
We can't afford to have the standard of Test cricket denigrated from within
Greg Chappell

The crisis deepened after the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) snubbed ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed after inviting him to address the board in Harare.

"The decision by the ZCU to withdraw its invitation to Malcolm Speed was unfortunate," ICC president Ehsan Mani said in a statement.

"The ZCU has indicated it intends to proceed with these matches as Test matches and I have called a meeting of the ICC executive board to establish clearly if the ICC directors believe that affording these matches Test status is appropriate."

Former Australia captain Greg Chappell said he supported the proposal to strip the matches of their Test status.

"I don't think anyone in cricket would be happy with that situation and we can't afford to have the standard of Test cricket denigrated from within," Chappell said.

"I think that's something that's got to be fiercely protected by the game of cricket."

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