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It’s two days less in Zimbabwe for England

Cape Town, Feb.8: The Nasser Hussain-led England squad has scrapped plans to leave for Zimbabwe tomorrow. However, a ‘compromise’ may see the side depart on Tuesday, allowing the players 48 hours to acclimatise before the most-talked-about World Cup Pool A match, in Harare.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, “alternative bookings” have already been made. Nobody, though, has been willing to speak on record. All that England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tim Lamb chose to say was a simple “we are dealing with complicated and sensitive issues.”

The latest development follows Appeals Commissioner Justice Albie Sachs’ rejection of the ECB plea over the throwing out of its request (for shifting Thursday’s game to South Africa) by the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) technical committee.

Justice Sachs announced his ruling late last evening and, since then, the ECB and the players have been engaged in a series of meetings at The Cullinan Hotel. The one yesterday continued till around midnight; the one today also spanned many hours. Moreover, there could be yet another session in the morning.

As of now, the outcome will only be known around noon tomorrow. Incidentally, ECB lawyers and the Professional Cricketers’ Association chief, Richard Bevan, have been part of the discussions. Last night, there was a “briefing” from the security brass as well.

“England should go... I hope they do,” remarked ICC president Malcolm Gray. England captain Nasser Hussain, however, didn’t commit himself during a brief interaction at the team hotel. “Well, wait and see,” he quipped, smiling enigmatically.

Though Zimbabwe remains in the news, captain Heath Streak declined to be drawn into the controversy. Playing it safe, he maintained: “Look, I’m neither a politician nor an economist, so I can’t talk about the issues being raised... In any case, anything I say can be ...”

However, Streak did add: “My players are trying to remain focussed on the job we’ve got to do and we are proud that our country is a co-host of the tournament. That does mean a lot to us.”

The captain’s response is understandable, but a senior member of the Zimbabwe squad (who preferred anonymity) accepted the players “have been affected” and that Zimbabwe could have done without so much “negative publicity”.

Whatever the so-called “moral issues” and concerns over security, he has a point.

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