Australia have pulled out of the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh starting on January 27 due to security concerns. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the decision was taken after advice from the government stated that the threat to Australian interests in Bangladesh was as high as when the senior team had pulled out of their tour in October last year.
The ICC has invited Ireland, who were runners-up in the qualifying tournament in Kuala Lumpur in October, to replace Australia in the tournament.
No other team is known to have similar plans. New Zealand Cricket confirmed that they would be going ahead with their tournament preparations as scheduled.
"For some time we have been working closely with ICC security advisors and monitoring the security situation in Bangladesh and have been keeping our players, officials and the players' parents as up to date as possible," Sutherland said. "Regrettably, the advice from our Government suggests that the security threat to Australians travelling to Bangladesh remains as high now as it was when we postponed the Test team's tour of that country late last year.
"Included in that is reliable information suggesting there is a high threat to Australian interests in Bangladesh and the knowledge that the Australian Government has authorised the dependents of posted diplomatic staff in Bangladesh to return home to Australia. In the end, with all of the information and advice we have received, we feel we had no alternative other than to make this difficult decision."
The ICC said it respected CA's decision but was disappointed by it. "The ICC takes its responsibilities around the safety and security of ICC events extremely seriously," its chief, David Richardson, said. "And taking into consideration the full and unequivocal support of the Bangladesh government that has been afforded to us at the highest level and through all local security agencies, the advice we have received from our own and independent security experts, and the robust security plan that has been developed, the ICC remains of the view the it is appropriate for event planning to continue as scheduled.
"Security plans associated with an event of this size and stature are always subject to continual review to ensure that they remain appropriate and fit for purpose, and this event is no different."
The BCB told ESPNcricinfo that it had cooperated fully with the ICC regarding security for the event, but the final decision to visit lay with individual countries. "We have given a strong security plan to the ICC and took into consideration everything it asked us to do," Jalal Yunus, the BCB's head of media, said. "Whether a member nation decides on coming to Bangladesh or not, is up to them."
Sutherland said CA had not taken the decision lightly and apologised to the ICC and BCB for inconvenience caused by the late withdrawal. "In advising the BCB, we have reaffirmed our desire to get back to Bangladesh to play cricket as soon as possible and will continue to discuss this with them in the coming months," he said. "We also know that this is a very disappointing outcome for our young players, who will have been looking forward to this event with great anticipation."
NZC chief David White said that while they were monitoring the security situation "on a daily basis," the board was "comfortable with the security arrangements put in place by the ICC and the Bangladesh government".
''The difference [between us and Australia] is the threat is, as we understand it, is specific to Australian nationals," White said. ''For the likes of us, England, South Africa and so on, there's a risk for westerners, but not specific to our nationals. That's the issue Australia had prior to Christmas as well."
Australia were in Group D of the Under-19 World Cup along with India, Nepal and New Zealand.