DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities are promising England’s cricketers unprecedented security when they begin a controversial tour Friday, desperate to prevent the country from becoming a no-go zone for international sport.
An attack on a cafe in Dhaka in July that killed 18 foreigners threw a powerful spotlight on the dangers posed by Islamist extremists who have also slain dozens of activists and members of Bangladesh’s religious minorities.
After their own security expert carried out an assessment in Bangladesh, England’s cricket board decided to go ahead with a month-long tour that begins with three One-Day Internationals (ODI) followed by two Test matches.
But while Alastair Cook will captain the Test team as normal, ODI skipper Eoin Morgan has decided not to travel on security grounds, handing over responsibility to Jos Buttler.
And even the Barmy Army, the diehard supporters’ group which normally follows the team around the world, has held back from endorsing the trip, saying there is “too much risk attached to travelling to Bangladesh”.
In an interview with AFP, the Bangladeshi board’s chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury said that “unprecedented security” measures have been promised by the law enforcement agencies during the England tour.
“We will take steps not only for the teams but we have also been given assurances by the police department that they will take special care for the supporters and the foreign media as well.”
Bangladesh police also pledged to provide top-level security to the team, saying there was no reason to doubt their ability to do so.
“We are committed to provide the highest security to the visitors and we are capable of doing so,” Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP.
Australia pulled out of a planned tour a year ago after their cricket board’s chief executive James Sutherland said there was a “risk of terrorism in Bangladesh targeting Australian nationals”.
And Australia’s football team was only persuaded to travel to Dhaka for a World Cup qualifier last November after authorities drew up an extensive security plan, aware that a no-show would see them forfeit the match.