Champions League matches moved from Mumbai
The fate of the Champions Twenty20 League, due to begin in Mumbai next week, is uncertain in the wake of Wednesday's terrorist strikes. The ODI series between India and England has already been aborted and Cricket Australia has advised its two teams, Victoria and Western Australia, and other players taking part in the tournament against travel to India in the immediate future.
A series of terrorist strikes in Mumbai on Wednesday night left at least 100 dead and 250 injured; the situation had not settled on Thursday morning, 12 hours after the attacks began, with Army troops joining the security operations.
Cricket Australia has suspended plans for players with Champions League teams to travel to India, a move backed by Ricky Ponting. Shane Warne, captain and coach of Rajasthan Royals, was in Singapore en route Mumbai. He said he was "shocked" and didn't think he would be completing the journey.
Two Pakistani cricketers, Kamran Akmal and Sohail Tanvir, who are part of the Rajasthan Royals squad, landed in Mumbai yesterday. They were out for dinner when the attacks began and were told to return to their hotel immediately. Both are safe and currently unsure about what their plans are. "We are both safe in a hotel," Tanvir said. "In Pakistan we are in a similar boat and both countries have to support each other. We are here for now and hope that things get better and can go on."
Naeem Gulzar, president of the Sialkot Region, Pakistan's representative in the Champions League, said his team had no problems if the venue was changed from Mumbai to either Bangalore or Chennai. "We have not yet been advised by the Pakistan Cricket Board, but personally I would definitely like to accompany my team if the matches are shifted to Chennai and Bangalore," Gulzar said.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) are waiting for further advice before two of their franchises, the Dolphins and the Titans, leave for India this weekend for the Champions League. Graeme Smith and Makhaya Ntini are also part of the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings respectively. "The safety of our players is of paramount concern to us at all times," CSA chief executive Gerald Majola said. "We will have to wait for guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the people on the ground in India before we take any decisions."
The strikes, including blasts and shooting incidents, were spread out across the city but the majority of them were in south Mumbai, the main tourist hub. In the early hours of Thursday morning, a major blaze was sweeping through the Taj Mahal hotel, a city landmark and the scene of one such attack, which was to host the two Test teams and was where the England side stayed during their warm-up period in Mumbai. It is also where Middlesex were set to check-in.
The Brabourne Stadium, venue of the second Test and scheduled to host three Champions League games, is in the middle of the area where most attacks have taken place. It is also the vicinity where most foreign tourists are likely to stay.
Middlesex were due to leave London for Mumbai at 10am on Thursday to prepare for the Champions League but postponed their departure by 24 hours after being told that matches scheduled for Mumbai would be switched to Bangalore. However, Brijesh Patel, secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Associaton (KSCA) said he is yet to receive any information regarding such a shift.
Asked if he was concerned by travelling to India, Shaun Udal, Middlesex's captain, said: "You'd be a big liar if you said no … there are concerns, lots of us have families and children. It's not just a cricket tournament any more. If I am told everything is fine in Bangalore then we'll go.
"What has made it particularly disturbing is the fact that we were going to stay at the Taj Palace Hotel 24 hours later. That's really brought it to heart. If we had gone out 24 hours earlier then that would have been the Middlesex team. It could have been us. That's what could have happened."
"We have to consider whether players and their families are happy with us travelling," Middlesex coach Toby Radford said. "Can you go somewhere and feel safe when there are people injured just 24 hours before? Our participation and the tournament itself must be in some doubt. Personally I would rather not be anywhere near there."
A Cricket Victoria spokesman said the team was due to stay in the Taj Palace after it landed on Saturday. They were scheduled to play the opening game in the city against Middlesex on Wednesday.
"We're reeling from the news of what's taken place," he said. "We're liaising closely with Cricket Australia and the government to work out the implications for the tour. We will have to change some of our travel plans. It's outside the scope of our normal areas of expertise."
Western Australia, however, said that their players were keen to participate in the Champions League if they were given the go-ahead by Cricket Australia. "We've spoken to the players and they are still keen to participate in the Champions League," the chief executive Graeme Wood, said. "We will be guided by Cricket Australia and the WACA certainly won't be jeopardising our staff or players."