Zimbabwe tour should be cancelled, says Hussain

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Nasser Hussain believes England should not go on their controversial tour of Zimbabwe in October. England's former captain gave his verdict on England's scheduled visit to the troubled southern African country after announcing his retirement from cricket last week. The 36-year-old also launched a scathing attack at the International Cricket Council for the way in which they handled England's abandoned qualifying match against Zimbabwe at the 2003 World Cup.

Speaking in his new role as a Sky Sports commentator, and enjoying the freedom it gives him to say what he thinks, Hussain said: "I can't see how any side, whether it be to play Test or one-day cricket, could possibly go to Zimbabwe now for a multitude of reasons - whether it be moral or just the fact that you're not playing against their best side. And this doesn't even take into account everything else that is going on behind the scenes in the country."

It is clear that the way in which the Zimbabwe issue has been, and continues to be handled, still rankles Hussain and this is not the first time his views have differed from those of the ECB, his former employers. His opposition to visiting the country started at the 2003 World Cup when England were scheduled to play Zimbabwe in Harare. Under the rules of the ICC this match could only be cancelled on grounds of safety and security or through government intervention. Though the overwhelming majority of people in the United Kingdom did not want England to play the match the British government refused to order them not to travel.

The attitude of the England and Wales Cricket Board did not help the plight of Hussain's squad. For financial reasons the ECB wanted the game to go ahead, especially after the players' safety had been guaranteed by the tournament organisers.

After a stressful and emotional week of meetings, where the players were continually given contradictory advice, England refused to travel to Zimbabwe. This decision ultimately cost Hussain's side a place in the latter stages of the competition, but more importantly it sapped him of his desire to continue leading his country. Hussain stood down as one-day captain at the end of the tournament and within four months Michael Vaughan was in charge of both teams.

Hussain added: "I think the way in which they handled the situation was diabolical," he said.

"For people to come and tell us that 'whatever happens you're going to Zimbabwe, no matter what is happening or what you think' was very poor. If you were to go around and ask people about what they think about it they would agree.

"Obviously the whole Zimbabwe fiasco was not of my making, so I don't look at it as a low for me. I view it as a low point for world cricket, the ICC and the ECB. What happened during the World Cup was a complete schamozzle and it should not be repeated."

Unfortunately though, it has. The ECB have stated that they would rather not fulfil their obligation to play two Test matches and three one-day internationals there in four months time, but fear the financial ramifications of withdrawing and the catastrophic effect it could have on the game here in England.

Hussain has never been a big fan of the attitude of most county pros and gave them a serve as he left the game. The former Essex batsman feels that the current set-up contains too many cricketers who are happy to settle for a cosy and comfortable career representing their county and do not work hard enough to turn themselves into England stars.

"I admit I am selfish," he said. "But I believe if you want to reach the top and you want to contribute to your country and you want to make the most of your ability, you have to make sacrifices and you have to be selfish. A major problem with English cricket and county cricket is that it's all about 'where are we going tonight boys'. They think if I get a nice twenty, I'll keep my contract and I'll get a benefit.

"Players should be more concerned with making the most of their ability and playing for England and not worried about hanging onto a cushy little job with their county."