A bomb blast has heightened political tensions in Zimbabwe ahead of a landmark election, but Australia’s cricket tour of the troubled African nation will proceed at this stage.
Australia face England this week in a one-off Twenty20 then are due to take on Zimbabwe and Pakistan, with the T20 tri-series to run July 1-8 in Harare.
A standoff between Zimbabwean cricketers and their board over unpaid match fees that date back almost a year will mean the hosts field an XI minus some of their best players.
But there are far more serious questions hanging over Australia’s first tour of Zimbabwe since dictator Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign ended in last year’s military coup.
Zimbabwe is due to hold an election on July 30, with president Emmerson Mnangagwa seeking to bolster his government’s legitimacy after seizing power.
Mnangagwa was the subject of an apparent assassination attempt on the weekend, when he survived a deadly explosion during a party rally at a Bulawayo stadium.
Cricket Australia is monitoring the situation closely.
“The safety and security of our players and support staff is paramount and as always, we will take advice from the relevant Australian authorities,” a CA spokesperson said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is warning Australians that “instances of conflict cannot be ruled out in the lead up to, during and soon after the election” and “the security situation could deteriorate quickly”.
Australian visitors are currently advised to “exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe”.
The T20 series isn’t an International Cricket Council event, meaning security arrangements are the responsibility of member boards.
However, the ICC is also currently assessing the security situation in relation to its match officials. Local broadcasters are expecting the tri-series to go ahead.
CA received assurances on several fronts, including security, during a routine pre-tour visit earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the sorry state of debt-riddled Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) will be discussed during ICC board meetings next week.
ZC is also currently in a messy dispute with players.
Veteran batsman Brendan Taylor, the overall leading run-scorer at the World Cup qualification tournament in March, headlined a list of stars absent from Zimbabwe’s T20 squad.
Former convener of selectors Tatenda Taibu claims Taylor was overlooked because he attempted to start a players’ union, frustrated by ZC’s stalling on owed income.
Chief selector Walter Chawaguta insists Taylor made himself unavailable and there will be no boycott from players already named in the T20 squad, as has been suggested.
Taibu, head coach Heath Streak and ZC’s entire coaching staff were fired earlier this year following the nation’s failure to reach the 2019 World Cup, while Graeme Cremer was sacked as captain.
Australia T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth Tri-series schedule
July 1: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan, July 2: Pakistan vs Australia, July 3: Australia vs Zimbabwe, July 4: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan, July 5: Pakistan vs Australia, July 6: Australia vs Zimbabwe, July 8: Final