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Check, mate?

While Cricket Australia greatly sympathised with the people of Delhi, they had stated a "safety first approach" when it came to any and every tour. Kadambari Murali reports. Check mate?

cricket Updated: Sep 15, 2008, 01:39 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times

Officially, whether the Australian cricket team, due to land in India in under 10 days ahead of a major four-Test series, actually makes the trip or not post the Delhi bombings, depends on the outcome of briefings from their security assessment team and the advice of their government. Unofficially, reports from Down Under indicate that the players are not overly concerned about travelling to India and are adopting a rather "pragmatic" approach to the issue at the moment.

But Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young, speaking to the Hindustan Times on Sunday morning, said that while CA greatly sympathised with and "felt for the people of Delhi and India for the tragic bombings", added that they had a stated "safety first approach" when it came to any and every tour.

While the CA had already finished a pre-tour security inspection, Michael Brown (their General Manager of cricket) will be coordinating another security briefing over the next few days. Young said he would be talking to the BCCI, taking advice from their long-time security consultant Reg Dickason, the views of the Australian Cricketers' Association and the advice of the Australian High Commission here before reaching any decision on travel.

Assess and reassess?

While the Australian High Commission here said they had no comment on the matter, the Australian government reviewed and reissued their travel advisory for India on Sunday post the bombings, "because of the high risk of terrorist activity by militant groups". However, they have not changed the degree of advice, which moves over five levels, from asking travellers to "be alert to own security" to "do not travel".

India, overall, stays in the middle, with the advice asking Australians to exercise a "high degree of caution". It also stays the same on the British government's foreign travel advisory. The English are scheduled to follow the Aussies to India for a Test and one-day series.

"It is an increasingly uncertain world," said Young, adding that for everyone, India, Pakistan, England, the West Indies etc, safety was a priority. "In the modern world we live in, things are uncertain, so we will take things on a case by case basis."

Asked how the spate of serial bombings in India over the past few months in Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, all major cricketing centres, would be viewed in comparison to the situation in Pakistan, with its proximity to Afghanistan and the fact of it being a base for the US's 'war on terror', Young repeated that decisions were made around "highly specific circumstances".

Different strokes

Australia, it may be recalled, pulled out of a full series in March and then the now postponed Champions Trophy, citing security concerns. "It really depends on an individual case," said Young. "For Pakistan, the security advice we received specifically stated that it would be dangerous to go there at that time (there was a threat perception to 'western targets'). However, in the case of the bombings in London (on July 7, 2005, during Australia's Ashes tour), the particular advice we were given said it did not create a situation where we should pull out."

The two countries are clearly viewed differently. The nuances in the ACA statement too indicated that the tour would be on. ACA chief Paul Marsh told the Sydney Morning Herald that he expected there "would be heat" if they decided to tour.

"As much as it's sometimes reported that we cancel series at the drop of a hat, that is simply not the case. We receive specific, expert advice from people who have served us well in the past and we will consult them again. I would not say there is panic among the players I have spoken to, but a degree of concern."

And Tim May, chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA) had told The Australian that it was unfair to compare the bombings in India (in this case the reference was to Jaipur) to the situation in Pakistan. He had said: "Pakistan has had 66 suicide bombings within its country over the past 12 months with over 3000 people killed and 17 of those attacks had been in the venues of the Champions Trophy."

Meanwhile, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said that the Board has not still been contacted by the Cricket Australia.

“There has been no discussion with Cricket Australia about security after the Delhi blasts,” said Shah.

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