Sibanda punts tour

SYDNEY - Test cricketer Vusi Sibanda has urged Cricket Australia to honour its commitment to Zimbabwe and play its scheduled three-match tour of the troubled southern African nation in September.

SYDNEY - Test cricketer Vusi Sibanda has urged Cricket Australia to honour its commitment to Zimbabwe and play its scheduled three-match tour of the troubled southern African nation in September.

The Australian government and Cricket Australia are set to meet today to discuss the limited-overs tour with prime minister John Howard, a strong critic of the regime of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

Howard has said his government is prepared to pay fines of up to $1,6 million (about R11,05 million) that could be imposed by the International Cricket Council should Australia decide not to go ahead with its tour.

Zimbabwean players say they can ill afford the Australians to withdraw from their tour even though they appreciate the sensitive political situation Cricket Australia is confronting.

Sydney-based Zimbabwean batsman Sibanda has implored Australia's cricketers to tour to assist the development of the game in his homeland, plagued by a dysfunctional management structure and a mass exodus of top players.

"The players obviously have no control, so it would be pretty sad if the Australians didn't come," Sibanda told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"I certainly hope that they do play. We need to challenge ourselves against the best in the world if we are to improve, and the Australians are the best there is."

Though 23 and with only three Tests under his belt, Sibanda is seen as one of Zimbabwe's senior players, following the exodus of established stars Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Henry Olonga and the Flower brothers. - Sapa-AFP

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