Sydney, Australia (BBN)-Australia’s Qantas Tour of Bangladesh has officially been postponed due to concerns over player safety.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland confirmed on Thursday that the scheduled month-long tour, which was set to get underway with a warm-up match in Fatullah on Saturday, will not go ahead as planned, reports Cricket.com.au.
Members of Australia’s Test squad were sent back to their respective state sides on Wednesday and will now take part in the Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, which starts in Sydney on Monday. Australia’s 15-man squad had been scheduled to fly out for Bangladesh last Monday morning but were delayed after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade informed CA they had “reliable information” about a possible security risk.
The team was put on standby while CA sent a three-man security delegation to Dhaka to meet with the highest levels of Bangladeshi government and security organisations.
The trio returned to Australia on Tuesday night for further talks with DFAT and to report back to CA’s board and the Australian Cricketers’ Association.
Having considered the reports from the security delegation and the Australian government, Sutherland said it was with “deep regret” that he announced the tour would be postponed.
“After six days of extensive deliberations and research, we’ve come to the conclusion that we have no other alternative than to postpone our tour to Bangladesh,” Sutherland said.
“It’s a very disappointing outcome from our perspective. “Six days ago we were informed by ASIO and our Department of Foreign Affairs that there was a credible risk to Australians in Bangladesh and we’ve worked through a rigorous process to try and understand that.
“We’ve had three people on the ground meeting with Bangladesh Cricket, Bangladesh government sources and members of our foreign affairs department in Bangladesh.
“In the end, all things considered, we’ve made this decision to postpone the tour for now and we’ll enter into discussions with the Bangladesh Cricket Board about when we can play this cricket series next.”
Sutherland praised the Bangladesh Cricket Board and the Bangladesh government, saying their co-operation over the past six days “has been nothing short of outstanding”.
He also expressed sympathy for Bangladesh cricket and its supporters, but said the safety of the Australian players and staff was the top priority.
“It’s not really appropriate for me to go into specific detail on this. But all I can say is that the threats were credible and real and targeted, not only against Westerners but against Australians.”
Last Friday’s security warning from the Australian government came as somewhat of a surprise given South Africa, India and Pakistan have all toured Bangladesh this year without incident.
But DFAT’s warning has been replicated this week by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, who have all followed suit in warning their citizens of possible militant attacks.
A large annual expat party in Dhaka organised for this weekend has been cancelled amid the security threat.
The annual ‘Glitter Party’ organised by Australian and New Zealand expats had been held in the city for the past 26 years.
The situation was further clouded on Monday when an Italian aid worker was gunned down in Dhaka, with multiple international media agencies since reporting a well-known terrorist group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
BCB president Nazmul Hassan had played down the link between the murder and the Australian team’s proposed visit, saying the tourists would be given the best protection available. Hassan released a statement on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to convince the Australians to tour.
“We have left no stone unturned in providing assurance regarding security for the Australian team,” Hassan said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The Bangladesh Government has committed additional security on top of the substantial and elaborate arrangements in the BCB’s standard Security Plan for international cricket.
“For the team (Australia) the level has been confirmed as VVIP which is equivalent to security accorded to Head of States and is unprecedented for any international side.
“We are still hopeful that a fresh date for arrival of its team will be declared by CA and we will see some exciting cricket on the ground soon.”