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Australia to seek neutral venue for Zimbabwe series

Australia will seek to play a one-day series against Zimbabwe in a neutral country after PM John Howard ordered Cricket Australia (CA) to cancel September's tour.

cricket Updated: May 13, 2007 13:34 IST
Miles Evans
Australia to seek neutral venue for Zimbabwe series

Australia will seek to play a one-day series against Zimbabwe in a neutral country after Prime Minister John Howard ordered Cricket Australia (CA) to cancel September's tour in protest at President Robert Mugabe's regime.

CA Chief Executive James Sutherland said that while he respected the government's authority in foreign affairs, the sport's governing body in Australia had a commitment to help develop cricket in Zimbabwe.

CA would take time to assess the full implications of the government's decision and efforts would be made to play the three-match series on neutral territory, he added.

"We are obliged to do what we can to help Zimbabwe cricketers and we could help them by playing somewhere else," Sutherland told reporters at CA's Melbourne headquarters.

"We are discussing with the government where we could play Zimbabwe at a neutral venue."

Sutherland met with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in Melbourne last Thursday to discuss a possible cancellation of the controversial series.

He said he believed that under ICC regulations CA would not be liable for a A$2.4 million (US$2 million) compensation payment to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union because they were unable to fulfil the tour.

The government has said it would indemnify CA against the full cost of cancelling the tour.

"We accept that the Australian government has the responsibility for making decisions about our nation's international relationships," said Sutherland in a statement.

But he added CA supported the ICC policy that cricket would only develop as a genuinely international sport if all ICC members played each other regularly.

"Given our commitment to help Zimbabwe cricket develop, we will now explore the possibility of playing the three ODIs we are due to play against Zimbabwe in September at a neutral venue outside Zimbabwe," he said.