Cricket Australia has officially postponed its upcoming Test tour of Bangladesh due to security concerns. James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive officer, announced the decision late on Thursday evening and said that CA had been left with no alternative after warnings from the Australian government of an increasing security risk for the Australian team in Bangladesh.
"This has been a very difficult decision," Sutherland said. "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.
"Over the last few days we have sought to obtain as much information as possible about the risks for Australians travelling to Bangladesh. 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.
"We have worked tirelessly to try to find a way for the tour to proceed, but in the end it was simply not possible. Given the situation, we have now advised the BCB and the International Cricket Council of our decision. We understand that this decision will be very disappointing for the cricket community in Bangladesh.
"However, from an Australian perspective, the safety of our players and officials is our highest priority. We will work with the BCB to reschedule the tour as soon as possible."
Cricket Australia was approached by ASIO and DFAT last Friday, three days ahead of the squad's scheduled departure for the two-Test tour, and were advised that potential security risks to Australian interests in Bangladesh had been identified. The departure of the players was postponed while Cricket Australia's security team flew to Dhaka to assess the situation.
CA's head of security Sean Carroll met with the Bangladesh government, the BCB, the Australian High Commission and DFAT, and flew home on Tuesday to report back to the players and the CA board. The prospects of the tour going ahead were not helped by the shooting death of an Italian national in Dhaka's diplomatic zone on Monday, for which ISIS reportedly claimed responsibility.
"The decision by Cricket Australia to postpone the tour is the correct one in these difficult circumstances, particularly from a player safety and welfare point of view," Alistair Nicholson, the Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive said. "The process for arriving at this decision was rigorous and we were in constant contact with CA, their security team, and the Australian players.
"It was by no means a call made lightly; it was made based on the recommendations of experts from a variety of organisations, including DFAT, CA's security team, and independent security assessors. Ultimately it was determined that the risk to the safety of players and support staff was too great for the tour to go ahead.
"From the players' point of view, they fully support the decision that's been made, however, they were looking forward to facing off against a challenging Bangladesh side playing on their home turf. The circumstances that led to the decision to cancel the tour are bigger than the game of cricket, and it's important to view the issue in this context. Where there are elements that are beyond our control - as there are in this case - the importance of player safety is brought sharply into focus, and this is absolutely paramount."
Friday's warning from the Australian government was that there was "reliable information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh". Sutherland said that while the tour could not go ahead as scheduled in October, he was hopeful of working with the Bangladesh board to determine when the two teams could meet for a Test tour.
"Bangladesh is clearly on the rise as a cricketing nation and our new-look Australian team was looking forward to the challenge of playing this series," Sutherland said. "From the moment we raised our concerns with the BCB they have been cooperative and most understanding of the situation. Together with the Bangladeshi government, they left no stone unturned in trying to allay our concerns and we are most appreciative of that.
"Cricket Australia and the BCB both exist to stage international cricket. It is therefore so disappointing that external influences have affected a tour that many Bangladeshis and Australians were looking forward to."
Australia's Test players are now likely to be available for the Matador Cup one-day tournament that begins next week.