The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ĎThey would always be looking for excuses to drop meí
- I expect a tight (India-Zimbabwe) finish...Iím not writing India off: Alistair Campbell

Harare: Alistair Campbell, who captained Zimbabwe in the last World Cup, has never been a favourite of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU), yet his exclusion from the ongoing World Cup is a shocker.

Understandably, Campbell has been devastated. To make it worse, his cancer-stricken father is in intensive care. ďEverything is happening at the wrong time,Ē he remarked, while speaking to The Telegraph Monday morning.

The following are excerpts

On being excluded from Zimbabweís squad

It was late on Boxing Day that I got a call from the chief selector (Ali Shah) who said he wanted to have a word. I met him the next morning, only to be told I wouldnít have a role in the World Cup. I was stunned, didnít know how to react...

On the reasons for his exclusion

(Laughs) Donít know... I think Iíve been on trial in every match... They would always be looking for excuses to drop me. Why' I just donít know... Itís mind-boggling and this latest exclusion has deflated me completely... I failed against Pakistan, but had two fifties in the last three games versus Kenya... Then, Iíve got the maximum one-day hundreds (seven) for Zimbabwe...

On having again been made captain, before being excluded

Well, yes... They asked me to lead... This musical chairs, though, is no good ó neither for the players, nor the development of the sport. The captaincy has become a poisoned dart: Any contact and you are dead. Look at Stuart Carlisle, heís no more in the team... Look at me... The message is simple: Donít have anything to do with the captaincy. Clearly, the flaws in our system must be set right and, hopefully, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. (After a pause) Thanks to the coach (Geoff Marsh) and Kevin Curran, our work ethic has never been better. Whatís needed now is consistency at the top.

On whether, at some point, he is awaiting a recall

Iím contracted with the ZCU till September and, so, Iíll do everything Iím obliged to do... Play club and first-class cricket... After September, I donít know... Of course, in between, we have tours to Pakistan and England. So, letís see... Actually, Iíve been so devastated that I havenít yet thought of options.

On Wednesdayís India-Zimbabwe match

I expect a tight finish... Somehow, all the recent games between the two countries have produced excellent cricket and I donít expect the match here to be any different. We had a close series in India early last year and, then, a tight finish in the Champions Trophy... If the side batting first can get 270 at least, the pressure on the other team will be enormous. Iíll be doing a bit of commentary and, so, will be having a close look.

On Indiaís dismal run of late

That they havenít been doing well is there in black-and-white. Having said that, nobody should ever discount the Indians. Everything can suddenly fall in place and, from nowhere, they could bounce back. Iím not writing India off.

On the unprecedented black armband protest by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga during the game against Namibia

As they explained, it was a deeply personal decision... The point they were making is that all is not well in the country, that people are starving to death... Itís fine for the TV cameras to show the Victoria Falls and some guys having beer but, then, thatís a facade... They have been courageous in doing what they did... I spoke to Andy last evening, but didnít talk about the armband issue.

Finally, on who he expects to win the World Cup

(Laughs again) I see an Australia versus New Zealand final and, on current form, Australia should retain the title.

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