SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia have withdrawn from the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh later this month because of concerns over the “safety and security” of the squad, Cricket Australia said in statement on Tuesday.
Australia postponed a test tour of Bangladesh in October for similar reasons and Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive James Sutherland said the situation had not improved.
“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,” Sutherland said in the statement.
“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 dependants 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.”
Muslim-majority Bangladesh faces what appears to be a growing threat of militant violence and has seen a string of incidents last year including the shooting of three foreigners, two of whom died.
The International Cricket Council said via Twitter preparations for the Jan. 22 to Feb. 14 tournament were continuing and Ireland had been invited to replace Australia.
“The ICC takes its responsibilities around safety and security of ICC events extremely seriously,” ICC Chief Executive David Richardson was quoted as saying.
“ICC are confident that the proposed security arrangements for (the tournament) will adequately address the identified risks.”
Bangladesh Cricket Board President Nazmul Hassan told Reuters the withdrawal was “unfortunate”.
“We are ensuring highest security,” he said. “We don’t see any security issues in Bangladesh. You just can’t stop games considering one or two incidents. Terror attacks are happening everywhere in the world. But games are taking place.”
Sutherland said Cricket Australia had monitored the security situation in Bangladesh closely since pulling out of the test tour and their head of security had travelled to Dhaka last week.
“We have always maintained that the safety and security of Australian teams and officials is our number one priority,” he added.
The Australia under-19 squad will still travel to the United Arab Emirates next week to play a tri-series against Pakistan and New Zealand.
(By Nick Mulvenney, Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)