Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Cricketer charged with arson attack at Zimbabwe academy

AFP , HARARE

Controversial former Zimbabwe Test player Mark Vermeulen was formally charged on Thursday with carrying out an arson attack on the offices and training academy of the national cricket board.

The 27-year-old Vermeulen, who had been detained at Harare's main police station, was expected to appear before a magistrate's court in the capital today, his lawyer David Dumbura said.

"He has been charged with two counts of aggravated arson under the criminal law codification act," said Dumbura.

The pavilion and computer equipment as well as kit were destroyed by the Tuesday night blaze at the training center, a day after a fire at Zimbabwe Cricket's boardroom at the Harare Sports Club which caused minor damage.

Vermeulen, who played the last of his eight Tests in 2004, recently returned to Zimbabwe after a stint playing league cricket in England where he was slapped with a lengthy ban for throwing a ball at spectators.

He was also sent home from the 2003 tour of England after a string of run-ins with the management, including a refusal to travel with the rest of the team after he was twice out for a duck in the same Test match.

Vermeulen was badly injured on a tour of Australia two years ago when he was struck in the head from a ball and has since been reportedly diagnosed with a depressive illness.

Since his return from England, the right-handed batsman has spoken of his desire to win back his place in the national side.

The incident is the latest blow to Zimbabwe cricket which has been rocked by a string of crises since co-hosting the 2003 World Cup with South Africa and Kenya.

Henry Olonga, Zimbabwe's first black international cricketer, and his white compatriot Andy Flower, the country's leading batsman, took to the field for a match during the tournament wearing black armbands "to mourn the death of democracy" in Zimbabwe.

Since then, the team have lost their Test match status while other top players such as captain Heath Streak have quit the team.

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