Former fast bowler says trip would send the wrong message May 10, 2007

Olonga urges boycott of Zimbabwe tour

Cricinfo staff

Henry Olonga believes the Australian players could make a real difference by refusing to visit Zimbabwe © Getty Images

Henry Olonga, the former Zimbabwe fast bowler, said Australia should not go ahead with their tour of Zimbabwe later this year. Olonga, who wore a black armband at the 2003 World Cup to mourn the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe, said Australia's players had a chance to make "a real difference" by refusing to play.

Olonga, who now lives in England, said if Australia visited Zimbabwe it would send the wrong message about Robert Mugabe's violent regime. "The picture they've tried to paint to the rest of the world is that if the reigning world champions are willing to tour Zimbabwe, then there can't be too much amiss," Olonga told the ABC.

"I think that's probably one of the real dangers of the tour going ahead." Olonga, who was unable to return to Zimbabwe after his 2003 protest, said the Australian players needed to realise there was far more at stake than just some cricket matches.

"Once in a while, once or twice in your career perhaps you have the opportunity to make a real difference in a way that is above just another bundle of Test wickets or another couple of hundreds," Olonga said. His words were in contrast to those of Vusi Sibanda, the opening batsman, who said the Zimbabwe team needed exposure to the best opposition in the world.

Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister, was scheduled to meet with James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, on Thursday to discuss the options. The government wants the tour cancelled but appears unwilling to impose a formal ban, although it has offered to pay any fine levied by the ICC if CA withdraws from the series.

Downer said there was a possibility Mugabe's regime would pocket the fine. "It's $US2 million - about $A2.5 million - [which] would go to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, and they would of course be able to do what they wanted with the money," Downer said on Australia's Channel 9.