Monday, September 15, 2008

Australia on track for India tour

Pakistan unhappy over 'double standards'

  • "I think if Australia tour India it will only highlight their double standards on security issues," Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told reporters in Lahore. "Pakistan is as safe a country as India and we had even promised state-level security for the Australians and other teams.
  • "We have said constantly terrorists attacks can take place anywhere. No country is safer than the other and this point was highlighted after the unfortunate and sad incident in Delhi.
  • "We find it hard to comprehend that when Australian cricketers can tour a country which has had a succession of bomb attacks what is so different about coming to Pakistan."

Australia's Test squad still plans to depart for India on Sunday despite increased fears over security following deadly bomb attacks in New Delhi on Saturday. Cricket Australia officials met with representatives from the Australian government's department of foreign affairs on Monday to receive an update on the safety situation in India.

Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket, will also be given a report on Tuesday from Reg Dickason, the team's security advisor, but a spokesman said there had been no change to the schedule for the four-Test series. "Our position is that the tour is going ahead unless we are otherwise persuaded," Peter Young, Cricket Australia's general manager of public affairs, told Cricinfo. "Our advice is there are some concerns and to exercise caution, but currently they do not compromise the tour. Our plan is to depart on September 21 subject to our advice."

Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said the final decision on the tour would, as usual, be taken by Cricket Australia. "We'll provide them with all of our up-to-date travel and assessment advisories," he said. "They are also, as I understand it, getting their own independent security advice which is what they do on a regular basis."

Australia have scheduled warm-up games in Jaipur and Hyderabad, where bombs have gone off over the past year, before heading to Bangalore, where one person was killed in attacks in July, for the opening Test on October 9. While Cricket Australia will continue to discuss the issue with their security advisers, the government and the Indian board, more information on the situation in the country is available from members of the Australia A squad.

The outfit is currently in Hyderabad, 1500km south of New Delhi, for a one-day tri-series and the first match was against New Zealand A on Monday. Young said the team wanted to stay and play.

"In consultation with the BCCI, we have upgraded security in and around the dressing rooms and they will have an escort to the ground," Young said. "They have also been told not to leave the hotel without good reason. It's just a matter of prudence." The squad is travelling with a security advisor who is part of Dickason's team.

The Australian Cricketers' Association does not believe the danger in India is as bad as in neighbouring Pakistan, but Paul Marsh, the chief executive, said he expected "heat" if Australia toured. "If the team stays in India, there might be some who criticise us for double standards," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "But people need to understand our starting point is that we always want to tour.

"We go to extreme lengths to obtain the best advice on the situation of each country we visit. In Pakistan's case this year, people we rely on told us not to tour. If they say not to tour again, we'll listen. Bombs going off anywhere are a concern."

More than 20 people were killed in the explosions in New Delhi, which will host the third Test from October 29. "The threat assessment for India has been considerably lower than that of Pakistan," Marsh said in the Australian. "We want to find out if the latest bombings will change that in any way and what our independent experts think about our Australia A players being over there at the moment. As always we'll rely on the advice of the experts."