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Zimbabwe a bunch of ‘yes’ men: Campbell

London: The Zimbabwe squad set to embark on their England tour have not been selected according to their ability but because they won’t rock the boat with president Robert Mugabe’s government, claimed former skipper Alistair Campbell Tuesday.

Campbell said that the current captain Heath Streak — whose father, a white farmer, was detained for three days by the police last year and had three quarters of his farm seized under the government land laws — wouldn’t be outspoken if asked about his thoughts on human rights abuses and electoral rigging perpetrated by the Mugabe government.

“That’s what the team are, a bunch of yes men,” said Campbell, who retired from the international stage after the World Cup. “And Heath Streak couldn’t say a bad word about anything. If you could pick your best Zimbabwean side, not many of these guys would be in it.”

Campbell said all the players would only have been permitted to go on the two-Test tour if they passed a political vetting process by the Zimbabwe sports commission as he had experienced when he was a member of the squad.

“I used to have a clause in my contract that said if anything from me appeared in the press that was politically orientated, then I’d be suspended without pay pending investigation. So all you’ll hear from these players is I’m here to play cricket. That’s it.”

While there is every likelihood of the England-based ‘stop the tour’ group led by Peter Tatchell (who leapt naked onto Mugabe’s car when he visited England) and former sports minister Kate Hoey, staging protests at the two Tests at Lord’s and Chester-le-Street, there is unlikely to be any such dissent from the players, Campbell felt.

[Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Test cricketers believe that the ECB will give them all necessary protection from demonstrators and pitch invaders on their tour of England and Northern Ireland, adds AP report from Harare.

[According to British media reports, Zimbabwe exiles are planning to run onto the pitch and demonstrate. “I’m not prepared to respond to newspaper stories about demos and threatened pitch invasions,” said Peter Chingoka, head of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, “but I can say I am confident the English authorities will have full regard for our safety and security. “We are simply cricketers, not politicians,” Chingoka said.]

Campbell said it was unfair to have selected so many young players — only Streak, Andy Flower’s brother Grant and Stuart Carlisle have over 20 caps while eight of the party have less than 10 — for such a difficult baptism of fire in the Test arena. “It’s a lot of untried youth,” he said. “I actually feel sorry for them. It’s unfair to thrust them into the international arena so early.”

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