Australia’s India tour on, ACA says no double standards (Lead)

September 15th, 2008 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 15 (IANS) Cricket Australia (CA) and its players association were at pains Monday to explain the rationale behind their decision to go ahead with the tour of India later this month irrespective of security concerns following Saturday’s serial blasts in the national capital Delhi. CA has confirmed that the squad will travel to India Sunday as scheduled while Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) in its explanation has said the security threat in India is not as alarming as it is in Pakistan, though it realises it has to cope with a fair bit of criticism for going ahead with the tour.

CA officials will, however, continue the exercise of meeting various government officials for an update on the safety situation in India. Michael Brown, CA general manager of cricket, is expecting a report Tuesday from Reg Dickason, the team’s security adviser now in India.

Australia are scheduled to play warm-up games in Jaipur and Hyderabad before heading to Bangalore for the opening Test on Oct 9. Bombs have gone off in all these three places in the past one year.

“Our position is that the tour is going ahead unless we are otherwise persuaded,” CA’s general manager of public affairs Peter Young was quoted as saying in the Australian media.

“Our advice is there are some concerns and to exercise caution, but currently they do not compromise the tour. Our plan is to depart on Sep 21.”

Australia’s high commissioner to India, John McCarthy has offered his assistance should the board need it. The Department of Foreign Affairs has not upgraded the travel warning to India but has referenced the Delhi bombings on its website.

Australia A are touring India and their assessment of the situation will also be taken. They are currently in Hyderabad for a one-day tri-series and the first match was against New Zealand A Monday. Young said the team wanted to stay and play.

“We want to find out if the latest bombings will change that in any way and what our independent experts think about our Australia A players being over there at the moment. As always we’ll rely on the advice of the experts.”

“In consultation with the Indian board, we have upgraded security in and around the dressing rooms and they will have an escort to the ground,” Young said.

ACA chief executive Paul Marsh said he expected “heat” if Australia toured India.

“The threat assessment for India has been considerably lower than that of Pakistan,” media reports quoted Marsh as saying.

“I expect there will be heat if we decide to tour,” Marsh said.

“As much as it’s sometimes reported that we cancel series at the drop of a hat, that is simply not the case. We receive specific, expert advice from people who have served us well in the past and we will consult them again. I would not say there is panic among the players I have spoken to, but a degree of concern.

Marsh insisted security assessments would be made impartially and not swayed by the lucrative nature of an Indian tour compared with Pakistan.

“If the team stays in India, there might be some who criticise us for double standards. But people need to understand our starting point is that we always want to tour.”

“We go to extreme lengths to obtain the best advice on the situation of each country we visit. In Pakistan’s case this year, people we rely on told us not to tour. If they say not to tour again, we’ll listen. Bombs going off anywhere are a concern,” Marsh said.

The Australians were criticised by several members of the Asian Cricket Council and commentators for postponing this year’s tour of Pakistan on security grounds and expressing concerns over the staging of the Champions Trophy which was eventually postponed.

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