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I wish our actions had been clearer: Hussain
Reuters, PTI
London, February 16, 2003
First Published: 12:07 IST(16/2/2003)
Last Updated: 12:07 IST(16/2/2003)
England captain Nasser Hussain wishes his team's actions had been as "clear and courageous" as the protest made by Zimbabwe's Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, who launched an attack against the running of their country.

"We talked about going to Harare and making a gesture, like wearing black armbands, or taking a bag of grain as one of the media suggested," Hussain said in his Sunday Telegraph column.

"It might have been a brave statement but was it a precedent for us to set? What would happen if all cricketers, and other sportsmen, made such statements in every country they didn't approve of?

"But...we must not hide from the fact that this is a political and moral issue as well, and we haven't made a real gesture of support for the people of Zimbabwe.

He added: "Deep down I wish our actions had been as clear and courageous as those of the two Zimbabweans."

Batsman Flower and black team mate Olonga launched an unprecedented attack on the running of Zimbabwe as they opened their World Cup campaign on Monday.

Former skipper Flower and pace bowler Olonga, in a joint statement released just before Zimbabwe's Group A game against Namibia, said they would wear black armbands during the event.

"In doing so we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe," the statement said.

HORSE'S MOUTH

Hussain said he had read in the newspapers that some Zimbabwean players did not want England to go to Zimbabwe and he wanted to hear it "from the horse's mouth".

When England were in Australia he asked team mate Ronnie Irani to speak to Andy Flower, as his Essex captain.

Irani reported that Flower had been changing his mind all winter, first thinking England should play in Zimbabwe, then that they should boycott the game.

"If the Zimbabwe players weren't sure, how could we make a judgment?" said Hussain.

"When I spoke to Flower on the phone recently, he said that he had his own decision to make, and we now know what that was -- to issue the statement he did on Monday with Henry Olonga."

Hussain said he had seen a Channel 4 documentary on Zimbabwe and, by chance, met the director of the programme just before the February 8 World Cup opening ceremony in Cape Town.

"Face to face I asked him if the situation in Zimbabwe justified my throwing away not only four points but, in effect, the most important six weeks of our cricketing lives.

"He clarified what he thought was going on, about people being starved on account of the party they had voted for. He stated even worse atrocities and felt we were doing the right thing."

ISSUES INVOLVED

Hussain added: "Obviously as captain, I had a part in preparing the players' statement, released by Richard Bevan, managing director of the Players' Cricket Association, about the political, moral and safety issues involved.

"Nothing I've heard or seen since has altered my opinion.

"The fact of the matter, though, is that the ECB and the players made their decision on safety and security grounds alone."

Hussain said the players were told by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) that they potentially stood to lose millions of pounds if there was a major split in world cricket.

He stressed that the team were starting to get very confused because they knew they also had responsibilities to the ECB and to English cricket in general.

"We have a moral obligation, too, to our employers and the game at home," he said. "We don't want to be remembered as the people who put the nail in the coffin of our sport."

At a players meeting on February 9 Hussain said it was "decision time" and they had to make up their minds.

"At that stage the majority were saying we shouldn't go because of what might happen if people protested at the match.

"How could you live with yourself if you played a cricket match, which your government and family didn't want you to play in, and somebody got killed?

"And how could I tell my team to risk everything by going to play in somebody else's country.

"It should not have come down to this fiasco. Politicians should continue to stand up and speak about the issues so they don't go away and something good comes out of this episode."


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