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Security firm to decide on SA stay

The mood here at the South African team hotel was one of uncertainty.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2006 13:35 IST
G Krishnan

The moodhere at the South African team hotel was one of uncertainty. The official word from the Proteas regarding whether they were staying back for the tri-series or if they were returning home for safety reasons took a long time in coming.

Manager Goolam Rajah, who was in a relaxed mood and had come down to pick up some food, said that his team was still waiting to hear from his Board, Cricket South Africa.

Later in the evening, South African media manager Gordon Templeton said that an independent security agency would be engaged to review the upgraded protection provided to the team and advise Cricket South Africa on whether to stay on for the competition or return home.

With South Africa’s first game, following the abandonment of their originally-planned tournament opener against Sri Lanka on Monday due to rain and on the reserve day due to uncertainty regarding their status in the tournament, slated only for Saturday against India, the independent security agency will have to be here at the earliest to assess the situation.

The two security personnel traveling with the team have been provided by the Nichols and Steyn security firm. One of the firm’s partners, Rory Steyn, has been in charge of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s security as well. The team has been advised by the firm to return home for its own safety from the moment the explosion near the team hotel occurred on Monday.

This firm has also been deputed by the International Cricket Council in the past to review security measures in the four sub-continent cricket-playing nations. Sources close to the security personnel ask why their advise was being overlooked this time and that an independent security agency be appointed.

Some of the senior players including skipper Mark Boucher and all-rounder Shaun Pollock and coach Mickey Arthur reportedly did not like the idea of staying back while the others did not have a problem remaining here for the tournament. When asked if there was some rough weather within the camp on this issue, Templeton said: "We’d all feel safe back home in South Africa.”

Sri Lanka Cricket, it seems, have no hand in convincing South Africa to continue with the tournament. Though the series has been revised with the final being pushed from August 29 to September 2, South Africa will act by what the independent agency says.

A Sri Lanka Cricket official said: "Who is not concerned about the security? Everyone is concerned about it. Every team is concerned," he said on Tuesday.

Security has been upgraded to the highest levels and a statement released by the South Africans here quoted their Cricket Affairs General Manager Brian Basson as saying: "Cricket, police and security officials have assured us that the highest levels of security in Sri Lanka are now in place to ensure the safety of the Proteas.

"We have also been advised by the South African High Commissioner in Colombo that all indications are that the team, and cricket in general, do not appear to be targets in the civil unrest in Sri Lanka.

"The safety of the team has been paramount in all our deliberations, and we have been assured that the upgraded security levels for the team will achieve this.

"In the circumstances, the team will remain in Sri Lanka while the upgraded security measures are being evaluated."

From the time the South Africans have arrived here on July 19, they have been shaken by three bomb blasts, two in the last week. They have all the more reason to return home. But if the independent security agency assures them that all’s well and that it’s safe to stay back and carry on, they will. Or will they?

First Published: Aug 16, 2006 02:30 IST