Education, Sport, Arts, and Culture minister David Coltart has backed the upcoming cricket tour of Zimbabwe by the Australia A team, arguing that the game has improved vastly in the country.
This was in response to efforts by members of the cricket fraternity in Australia who are opposed to the tour.
“As we have seen with the recent cricket World Cup, cricket may be just a game, but it has an enormous impact beyond the reaches of any ordinary sport.
While big money has come to dominate the game, it remains the diversion of choice for millions of fans in some of the world’s poorest regions.
“As such, the proposed tour of the Australia A Test cricket team to Zimbabwe in July looms as a shining light on the horizon for many of Zimbabwe’s suffering population. It is true that our country still struggles to reconcile the notions of democracy with the atavistic remnants of dictatorship.
“No one is more frustrated and disappointed by such a situation than me. Yet, for this, we cannot punish the vast majority of Zimbabweans who look forward to the simple joy of watching top-class international cricket and whom, as was proven in the 2008 elections, support democracy.
“In this light, attempts to force Australia out of the tour, coming from those within Australian Cricket, are perplexing and damaging to the collective heart of most Zimbabweans. In fact, they are wrong,” he said in a report carried in the Sydney Morning Herald.
He also touched on the issue of the safety of touring cricketers.
“Cricket in Zimbabwe is in a vastly improved state and the nation as a whole has made significant strides forward.
“Zimbabwe is certainly far safer than India or South Africa, regular venues for Australian touring cricketers. We do not have the bomb threats India has and our crime levels are way below those of South Africa. The New Zealand ‘A’ side toured Zimbabwe late last year and remarked how welcome they were and how peaceful the country was.”
Last week, the British Independent Schools rugby team (Barbarians) arrived in Zimbabwe for four matches and concluded an incident-free tour with a visit to Mbare on Thursday morning.
They are planning to organise more tours.
Zimbabwe 2011 Schedule:
1st-10th July: One-day Tri-series with Australia A and South Africa A
July: Two four-day matches against Australia A
1st-21st August: Bangladesh tour for one Test and five ODIs
September: Pakistan tour for one Test, three ODIs and two T20Is
21st September-3rd October: South Africa tour for three ODIs and two T20Is
21st October-21st November: New Zealand tour for one Test, three ODIs and two T20Is
Zimbabwe last played a Test in September 2005, when India beat them by ten wickets in Harare.