Simon Jones: Now that we are here, I have never experienced anything like it

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The Independent Online

We were in the airport when we heard. Nobody knew it was coming. While we had been in Namibia, nobody had mentioned Zimbabwe. There had been no hint of any problem. Back home before we left, Zimbabwe had been discussed but as a group we had decided we were going to play there. That was it.

We were in the airport when we heard. Nobody knew it was coming. While we had been in Namibia, nobody had mentioned Zimbabwe. There had been no hint of any problem. Back home before we left, Zimbabwe had been discussed but as a group we had decided we were going to play there. That was it.

Then on our way from Windhoek, we were in the lounge at Johannesburg Airport waiting for the connecting flight to Harare. A call came through from David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. He told us to stay where we were. Some journalists were being banned from covering the tour. To be honest I didn't know what the hell to think at first. But it obviously wasn't normal and it seemed a bit odd that the decision had been made so late.

Within 40 minutes we had been found a hotel and we were there for two days. It was an up-and-down week after that. For a long time most of us, including me, thought the tour would be off. I am not a political animal in any shape or form, the international section is not the first I turn to when I open the paper but my feeling was that we could not and would not go.

We had agreed that we would play on the tour, that was a decision long since made that we were happy enough to stick to, but the fact that reporters were not being allowed to cover it made it worthless. The media are part and parcel of professional sport. It's all tied up together.

For a couple of days we kicked our heels. We were lucky. We were staying in a top-class hotel in Johannesburg, we could chill out, do some training and relax after a hard preparation period in Namibia.

We were confused and we were frustrated and we did not know if we were sitting in Heathrow or Harare. But I wouldn't say that we were ever downbeat. The players who were on their first tour were understandably wondering what was going on. I was quite willing to listen and take advice from senior players and management. I didn't say too much in any of the meetings that we had.

We knew what the news from home was, because of satellite television. It was being said that more than 90 per cent of the public wanted us to call the tour off. Of course, we took that point on board, but we listened to our employers and we talked among ourselves.

When the decision to ban the journalists was finally lifted we felt that we had to make the tour. Whether players should be put in positions like this I don't know. We are the ones who are at the sharp end so we have to have some say, but at the end of the day our employers wanted us to go. This is a strong group of players and listening to the senior guys, it was clear that we would go to Harare after the clearance was given.

Now that we are here, I have never experienced anything quite like it. Nothing is too much trouble for our hosts. We have a heavy police escort to and from the Harare Sports Ground, and traffic has been cleared to make way for us in both directions. There is no sense of danger and the mood in the camp seems good.

All I feel we must do now is play cricket as we are paid to do, to try to win the series 4-0 and then go down to South Africa to play our series there. Other issues are for other people. We arrived in Harare on Friday and had a chat in the changing room before we went out to practise. It was simple and unanimous. We are here to play cricket, other people have made that decision, we have gone along with it, now let us do it well.

We are fit, we have prepared well in Namibia - the unscheduled break in Johannesburg might very well have done us good from that point of view. I suppose it's possible that attention on the cricket won't be that great while we are here because of events of the last few days.

The five matches have become four because of the delay in getting here. My gut feeling is that I won't start in the team and that the selectors will stick with the attack that lined up in the Champions Trophy in the autumn. But I am here to play cricket. And so are the rest of the team.

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