Citing Security Concerns, Australian Cricket Team Calls Off Bangladesh Tour

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
151001-BD-cricket-1000 Australian cricketer Aaron Finch plays a shot in front of Bangladeshi captain Mushfiqur Rahim during an ICC World Twenty20 tournament match in Dhaka, April 1, 2014.

Three days after an Italian aid worker was shot and killed in Dhaka, Australian cricket officials Thursday announced that “an increasing security risk” had compelled them to postpone indefinitely this month’s planned tour of Bangladesh by the national test squad.

An independent security review confirmed there was “a risk of terrorism in Bangladesh targeting Australian nationals,” Cricket Australia (CA), the nation’s cricketing body, said in a news release.

Recent advice from Australia’s intelligence service, CA’s head of security and other officials had also contributed to Cricket Australia’s decision that two test matches against Bangladesh – scheduled to begin on Oct. 9 in Chittagong and on Oct. 17 in Dhaka – “could not proceed,” the CA said.

“This has been a very difficult decision. Following the most recent information from Australian Government agencies and our own security advisors, we have decided that, regrettably, we have no alternative but to postpone the tour," CA Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said.

“We had hoped that the security concerns would fade, but unfortunately the advice we have received from government, our own security experts and independent security advisors has clearly indicated that there are now high risks to our people should they make the trip,” he added.

The Australian team is No. 2 on the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test Match Team Rankings, and Bangladesh is ranked ninth out of 10 nations. International test matches can take five days to play.

"From an Australian perspective, the safety of our players and officials is our highest priority,” Sutherland went on to say. “We will work with the BCB to reschedule the tour as soon as possible.”

Citing similar concerns about reports of potential terrorist threats to Australian interests in Bangladesh, Cricket Australia had earlier announced a delay to the national team’s arrival scheduled for Sept. 28.

Last week, Australia had sent Sean Carroll, the chief of security for the national cricket team, and two other officials to Dhaka for meetings with Bangladesh’s home minister, the chief of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and intelligence officials.

On Monday, the American and British embassies issued advisories warning of possible threats against Westerners in Bangladesh.

That night, 50-year-old Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella was gunned down in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter. The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based website that monitors jihadist threats worldwide, reported that the Islamic State (IS) extremist group had claimed responsibility for Tavella’s murder.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan dismissed the claim about IS being behind the killing, saying that the homicide was an isolated incident. IS’s reported presence in Bangladesh is relatively small compared with other Islamist groups operating in the country.

Khan had assured Carrol and others in the Australian delegation that the Aussie team would get “VVIP security” during the tour.

Unhappy Bangladeshis

On Thursday, BCB chief Nazmul Hasan expressed disappointment with the Australian decision.

“We assured them of giving maximum security, but we do not know what actually happened for which they (Australia) postponed the tour,” Hasan told reporters.

The Australian security experts had told him that the security situation was not solely problematic in Bangladesh but in all South Asian countries, Hasan said.

“But it does not mean that the match should be postponed,” he said.

The Australian decision would in no way stand in the way of cooperation between the two cricket-crazy nations, Aminul Islam Bulbul, the former captain of the Bangladeshi team, told BenarNews.

“They have not cancelled the tour, just postponed. I hope they would play in Bangladesh, if the governments could settle the security arrangements in the future,” Bulbul said.

Bangladeshi fans too expressed dismay over the postponement.

“I had been waiting eagerly to enjoy the matches, but I am really shocked,” Oishik Jawad, a 12th grade student of Notre Dame College in Dhaka, told BenarNews.


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