Geoff Marsh, the former coach of Zimbabwe, said cancelling Australia's tour later this year would have little effect on Robert Mugabe's regime and action should be taken in areas besides sport. Marsh said Zimbabweans were passionate about cricket but their country had been turned into "a living hell".

"The feeling I get - and it's the opinion of some of my Zimbabwean mates as well - is what difference will stopping a cricket tour make?" Marsh said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "Whether it's the right or wrong thing to do is another matter, but, in real terms, I just wonder what it will achieve.

"I generally don't like to see sport and politics mix. I think strong action definitely needs to be taken but I think it has to happen in areas broader than just sport. It is a beautiful country that has become a living hell for a lot of people."

Marsh, who was in charge of the side from 2001 to 2004, said the exodus of Zimbabwe's top players was unfortunate for cricket in the country. "It's a sad situation," he said. "People there love the game. We filled the grounds there quite a few times, and you have to think that had they kept their key players, they would probably be a pretty competitive team."

Marsh's comments came as Cricket Australia met with Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, to discuss whether to cancel or go ahead with the tour. The government has repeatedly said it does not want the trip to proceed and will pay any ICC fine imposed on CA.