England tour of Zimbabwe, 2004-05 September 26, 2004

Full-strength side will tour Zimbabwe, says Graveney

Wisden Cricinfo staff

David Graveney: 'We have always selected the strongest side' © Getty Images

David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, today insisted that England will take a full-strength squad to Zimbabwe for five one-dayers in November and December, although players carrying slight injuries may be left out to give them a chance to recover before a demanding South African tour.

"We have always selected the strongest side," Graveney told BBC radio. "The side will be finalised today, we will consult the players, and announce the squad on Tuesday.

"We are not trying to conceal anything," he added. "It is subject to fitness, and a number of players have been carrying injuries this summer. The core players have been on the road playing constant international cricket for a long time. The tour of Zimbabwe gives us an opportunity to rotate a little more.

"It will be up to the medical staff to inform the selectors if a period of rest would be beneficial for the demanding programme they have ahead of them," he continued. "We're going to take the strongest team. That's the way we play international cricket, but we'll take the fitness angle into account. The selectors were castigated for taking injured players to Australia and we're very conscious of that."

Graveney would not comment on the likely final make-up of the squad for the one-day series, but said there could be "one or two" surprises.

Zimbabwe were suspended from playing Tests after 15 of the country's top cricketers walked out of the national side because of a dispute over selection policy with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Their replacements, many of who were pulled straight out of the Zimbabwe Under-19 team, struggled to be competitive in two home series against Sri Lanka and Australia earlier this year.

So far, Steve Harmison is the only England player to have confirmed his unavailability for the tour, although some media reports suggest Andrew Flintoff, a close friend of his, may soon follow suit. "My decision was made in Cape Town over 18 months ago when England's World Cup squad spent an horrendous four days before finally deciding not to go to Harare," Harmison wrote in his News of the World column. "Nothing has changed for me. The situation there is worse now."

But Graveney dismissed the rumours of Flintoff's unwillingness to travel, saying: "[The story] has no foundation". He also denied that the selectors would leave out players unhappy with touring Zimbabwe and put their absences down to injury.