'The safety of our team is paramount and we have no option but to withdraw the team from the tournament' - Majola © Cricinfo Ltd
South Africa have pulled out of the Unitech Cup in Sri Lanka and will fly home. This was announced in Johannesburg today by Gerald Majola, Cricket South Africa's CEO.
This follows a report from an independent security consultant to Cricket South Africa that the current risk to the team is at an "unacceptable level". A bomb blast near the team's hotel in Colombo on Monday, shortly before they were due to play against hosts Sri Lanka in a triangular tournament that included India, set off a train of events, which saw almost 48 hours go by as the visiting side hesitated on whether to stay behind or head home.
"In the light of this independent report by the Olive Group, who were appointed at the behest of the ICC, we have no alternative but to bring the team home as soon as possible," a media release from Cricket South Africa said.
"The independent report comes to the same conclusion as that of our own security consultant's report. The Olive Group report says, inter alia, that the current risk to the team is at an unacceptable level, and the Sri Lankan Government is unable to guarantee the physical security of the team given the current security situation in Colombo."
Though the report accepted that the team was not directly a target of the LTTE, it confirmed that "there is a real situational threat to the team."
Majola said the decision to withdraw the team was taken with reluctance and regret.
"However, the safety of our team is paramount and we have no option but to withdraw the team from the tournament. We have a wonderful relationship with Sri Lankan cricket and will now be talking to them about rescheduling the tournament.
"We have been in touch with both the ICC and Sri Lankan Cricket and informed them of our decision and the reasons behind it," he added.
The ICC respected South Africa's decision to pull out, but warned that Cricket South Africa will have to come to an agreement with the Sri Lankan board for rescheduling the series, to avoid facing a fine of US$ 2 million.
Brian Murgatroyd, the ICC Media Manager told Cricinfo, "It's not the role of the ICC to judge South Africa on their decision to pull out of the tri-series. South Africa made their decision on the basis of the assessment of the security situation and independent report. It's upto Cricket South Africa and Sri Lanka Cricket to come to an agreement as to when and where they can play these matches, and if the two cricket boards can't do so, the ICC will be involved in dispute resolution. If they [South Africa and Sri Lanka] don't reach an agreement on the dates, it could go to the ICC Disputes Resolution Committee where there is a potential of a decision of fines going against South Africa."
As it stands India and Sri Lanka are likely to play a three-match series instead on August 18, 20 and 22. Sri Lanka Cricket had reportedly tried to persuade the Indians for a five-match series but without apparent success. With inclement weather remaining another concern, the three matches will be played at the Sinhalese Sports Club which has better drainage facilities. All three will be day matches.