Australian players shaken by Jaipur blasts persuaded to stay back (Second Lead)

May 15th, 2008 - 7:40 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney/Jaipur, May 15 (IANS) Australian cricketers in Indian Premier League’s (IPL) Rajasthan Royals team led by Shane Warne are shaken by the Jaipur blasts but IPL organisers say they have been persuaded to stay back. IPL Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi said the apprehensions of the overseas players in the Rajasthan Royals, including captain Shane Warne, about security in Jaipur after the serial blasts have been addressed after the steps being taken were explained to them. They have decided to return to the pink city from their holiday in Goa, he added.

The Australian media reported that Shane Warne, compatriot Shane Watson and South Africa captain Graeme Smith were terrified by the Jaipur blasts and may return home.

“They (players) were a little perturbed. They were not clear about the actual situation on the ground. Their understanding was based on media reports. But now we have told them about the security arrangements and they are happy with the steps IPL has taken,” Modi said.

Modi said the heightened security measures would be in place at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh stadium during IPL matches. The Rajasthan Royals will take on the Bangalore Royal Challengers at the stadium Saturday. Serial blasts rocked the city Tuesday evening, killing 61 people and injuring 216.

“No bags, bottles and lighters will be allowed in the stadium. Everybody will be frisked while entering and leaving the stadium. The players will be completely cordoned off, and nobody will have access to them,” Modi said.

The players earlier said they would not return to Jaipur unless they received absolute guarantees about their safety and security.

“We won’t be moving until we have absolute guarantees, written guarantees from heads of (these) states and from heads of security,” manager of Rajasthan Royals Darren Berry told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“There was a real option of getting on the plane and getting out of here. It is terrifying. To think I was standing in the exact location the bombs went off only two days ago … it was a couple of kilometres from the team hotel. The whole country has gone into lockdown,” Berry was quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“These games are getting big crowds. People over here tell me this has nothing to do with cricket, it is political … but if some people are prepared to cause this type of damage, detonating bombs in peak-hour to harm the most number of people possible … 50,000 people come to the stadium to watch the games,” he said.

Modi however claimed the players were on their way back to Jaipur. “All Australian players who will play Saturday are returning (from Goa). They are comfortable with the security arrangements,” he said.

IPL chief executive Fraser Castelino said ’security is a concern’ but the government is leaving no stone unturned to see that everything falls in place. “We are working closely with the state government,” he said. “They have assured us that security arrangements will be tight. All steps are being taken for the safety of the players and to ensure that there is no untoward incident. Sniffer dogs and bomb squads will be used during the matches.”

Meanwhile, many fans of the IPL in Australia are outraged by the players’ reactions and the lack of empathy for those killed in Jaipur.

“IPL has given a chance for international cricketers to earn huge money purely for themselves, not even representing their countries. If they’re prepared to plunder India’s rich pickings, I think there’s some obligation to share or empathise with the ups and downs of the country that is lining their pockets so handsomely,” Michael Jeh, a former first-class cricketer who now lives in Australia, told IANS.

“Indians, as many in countries across the world, live with the threat of terrorism all the time, but international cricketers seem to want to pick and choose the bits of India they want and are too quick to cut and run when things get a bit scary,” said Jeh, who grew up in Sri Lanka and lived with the bombings and ethnic violence in that country and has spent a lot of time in India.

Haresh Luthria, a management and technology strategy consultant and an avid fan of cricket, added: “I think that everyone has their personal threshold of risk and so I can understand some players considering flying back to Australia. This threshold is probably very low for people who have never faced something like this on their home soil. I hope this has sensitised the players and their member countries to the price we (Indians) are paying, living with the constant threat of terrorism.”

Cricket Australia said it was relieved to know that Australian cricketers associated with the IPL and Jaipur were all safe and well. It said it noted that the “IPL has undertaken to increase security around tournament and that the games scheduled in Jaipur are going ahead. We’ve been liaising with player managers to ensure that the players are ok”.

Modi said the heightened security measures would be in place at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh stadium during IPL matches. “No bags, bottles and lighters will be allowed in the stadium. Everybody will be frisked while entering and leaving the stadium. The players will be completely cordoned off, and nobody will have access to them,” he said.

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