New Zealand players unanimous in their decision to tour
The New Zealand board has said that there was no question of not going ahead with the tour to Zimbabwe and added that they will try and avoid any contact with Robert Mugabe's government.
Martin Snedden, the chief executive of New Zealand Cricket, said an independent security report from Zimbabwe earlier this week had given the all-clear for the tour and that player safety wouldn't be an issue. In response, the players unanimously agreed to the five-week tour, involving two Tests followed by a one-day tri-series with India as the third team.
The detailed report regarding the security arrangements were given to the board by a Zimbabwe-based security expert, who also advised England and Australia during their tours last year. "The advice we're getting is that as things stand at present he doesn't think it will interfere with the tour proceeding," Snedden told New Zealand Press Association. He added that player safety was the only grounds for not touring, as they would be liable for a minimum fine of US$2 million for unjustified cancellation under ICC regulations. Snedden said the US$2 million fine for unjustified cancellation was the bare minimum and that the touring country was also liable for all financial losses suffered by the hosts.
The team have come under pressure from political parties and have been urged not to tour. Rod Donald, the co-leader of the Greens, petitioned all contracted New Zealand players in March this year and requested they boycott the tour on moral grounds. Helen Clark, the prime minister, had also said that she "wouldn't be seen dead in Zimbabwe" under the present regime, and that she preferred the tour did not proceed. However, she didn't take the final step of government intervention, which would also be grounds for cancelling the tour without financial penalty.
Snedden outlined the advice that the board had received from the government. "Phil Goff [Foreign Affairs Minister] has suggested that it's a good thing if we can avoid putting our players in situations where they have any contact with Zimbabwean Government officials, and we'll be working to achieve that. The government's taken a pragmatic approach, they've expressed a view that they would prefer us not to go, but they understand the contractual situation."
He felt that the cancellation of the tour would lead to embarrassment and added that the players were given all the information they needed about Zimbabwe's political situation and had the past two months to decide whether to tour or not. "If you've entered into a contractual arrangement with nine other countries and you try and pick and choose later, then you expose yourself to ridicule," he said. "The players have been through this situation a number of times in recent years. It's an issue we've met head on and done pretty well. My understanding is the players are reasonably confident in the way we handle it and are prepared to trust us to do it right."
The board, headed by Snedden, have been weary of security issues in the recent past: New Zealand's tour of Pakistan in 2002 was aborted midway after a bomb exploded outside the team hotel in Karachi; the team refused to travel to Kenya for a World Cup match in 2003 due to terrorist threats; and later that year they delayed a tour of Pakistan after receiving threats about touring during the holy month of Ramadan.