CA security manager to visit Bangladesh
Cricket Australia will make a decision on whether to proceed with the Test tour of Bangladesh after its security manager Sean Carroll meets with officials in Bangladesh over the coming days. Australia's players were due to fly out for Bangladesh on Monday morning but that departure has been postponed due to new security advice from the Australian government.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued updated travel advice on Friday, stating that "there is reliable information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh". The government contacted Cricket Australia directly on Friday afternoon to relay the latest advice, which has led to Carroll being dispatched to Bangladesh to assess the situation.
Carroll is expected to meet with the Australian High Commissioner in Bangladesh on Sunday, ahead of further meetings with Bangladesh government, police and security officials from Monday. The Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said that while CA wanted the two-Test tour to proceed, it would not be possible to make any decisions until such meetings had taken place.
"Our position is we want the tour to go ahead as planned," Sutherland told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday. "This has obviously come very suddenly and we've needed to make this response. Our preferred position is to continue with the tour, but the safety and security of our players and staff is the absolute priority and the first priority for us is to secure that.
"We'll be endeavouring to get some undertakings and understandings of what the situation is in Bangladesh before making any further decisions in regard to the tour."
Sutherland said Cricket Australia had been advised by the Australian government on Friday that there would be an adjustment to the official recommendations for traveling in Bangladesh as a result of intelligence advice from DFAT and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
Although DFAT's Smartraveller website often advises general caution when travelling in Asia, the wording of Friday's updated advice - that "militants may be planning to target Australian interests" - is unusually specific. There is no such specific wording listed in the travel advice for neighbouring countries in the region.
"The government came to us on Friday afternoon to advise us that they had some credible threats to western interests and on that basis, knowing that the team was not far away from leaving, that we should understand that there would probably be some alteration or adjustment to the travel advice for Australians going to Bangladesh," Sutherland said.
"What we've heard from our government and the Department of Foreign Affairs is that there are credible threats to Australian and western interests in Bangladesh. We obviously take that very seriously and we need to respond, and are responding in the manner that we have so far."
However, he also noted that the travel advice was for ordinary Australians travelling in Bangladesh, and the Australian squad would have extremely high levels of security if the tour went ahead.
"The DFAT advice is for ordinary civilians who are travelling on holidays or on business in Bangladesh, which is very different to the Australian cricket team, which is afforded the highest level of security by Bangladesh police and armed forces while they're there," Sutherland said. "Those things need to be weighed up in the circumstances."
Cricket Australia has kept its players updated on the situation by email and the general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, has spoken directly to some players. Sutherland said he had also been in direct contact with Nizamuddin Chowdhury, the CEO of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, to keep the BCB updated on the situation.
"I've spoken to my equivalent in Bangladesh and they understand our position," Sutherland said. "They understand that we've taken advice from our government and they will go to every length to provide whatever support is necessary including arranging whatever meetings are necessary for our head of security and others to be able to get an understanding of the situation and what security response there may be from Bangladesh police, government and other security forces."
Australia's former captain Michael Clarke said on Sunday that he hoped the tour would be able to go ahead, but that the decision should be made by the government and administrators rather than the players. Clarke said he was disappointed that during his international career of more than a decade he had never been able to tour Pakistan, due to security concerns.
"A lot of the time as a player you leave decisions like this up to the experts," Clarke said on Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports. "This is one of the occasions you want, DFAT, CA, the Australian Cricketers' Association to make the decision for you.
"If they're saying lets hold the guys' travel off for a few extra days, that shouldn't affect the tour at all. If they're still saying don't go in a week or two weeks' time then we're having a different conversation.
"For the game we need to see teams be able to travel the world and play in all different conditions. I never got to play in Pakistan. I hope over time cricket is played all around the world and we don't have these problems."
The short nature of the two-Test tour gives Cricket Australia little time to make a decision, and it would be unlikely that the matches could be rescheduled to another location at such short notice. The Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Alistair Nicholson said the ACA would work with Cricket Australia to keep the players informed.
"We continue to be in close contact with the players, who fully understand that their safety is our foremost concern, that and any recommendations we make will be made with this in mind," Nicholson said. "We're also liaising with our security experts, CA and FICA - as the peak body for cricket player associations. We're awaiting updated and more detailed assessments and will keep the players informed of any developments."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale