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Australia cricket team arrives for 1st tour to Zimbabwe in 10 years

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HARARE, Zimbabwe - The Australia cricket team arrived for its first tour of Zimbabwe in a decade on Thursday, promising to play hard and shrugging off questions over the trip.

Australia avoided playing in the troubled southern African country for 10 years from 2004 because of the rule of longtime president Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, which has been criticized by human rights organizations.

Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh, whose father Geoff once coached Zimbabwe, was asked at Harare International Airport on Thursday if it was right to come to Zimbabwe now. Marsh replied: "I'm not the right person to ask."

Australia's government directed its cricket team in the mid-2000s not to tour Zimbabwe because of Mugabe, describing him as a dictator.

But although it hasn't played an international game in Zimbabwe for 10 years, Australia has sent a second-string "A'' team here recently.

"A couple of guys have been here over the last two years (with Australia A) and we obviously love being back here," Marsh said. "So we are ready to have a good few weeks."

Australia will play in a triangular ODI series against Zimbabwe and South Africa, the first of a string of limited-overs contests for the Aussies as they count down to co-hosting the World Cup with New Zealand early next year.

"We come here with an attitude that it doesn't matter who we are playing. We bring a good attitude. We play hard cricket. We play to win every game," Marsh said.

Top-ranked Australia is without top-order batsmen David Warner, Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh. The tournament begins on Monday at Harare Sports Club with Australia vs. Zimbabwe.

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