Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 19 News List

South African team agree to wait on ICC security evaluation

AP , COLOMBO

South Africa has agreed to await an independent security evaluation by the International Cricket Council (ICC) before deciding whether to pull out from a tri-nation series in Sri Lanka, following a bomb blast near the team's hotel.

South African cricket team's spokesman, Gordon Templeton told reporters that his cricket board and the ICC had appointed separate security agencies to evaluate Sri Lanka's upgraded security plan for the teams.

"The team is staying in Colombo as the upgraded security plan is evaluated" by the South African cricket board and the ICC separately, Templeton said on Tuesday, after hours of teleconference between the cricket officials of Sri Lanka and South Africa.

India is the third country playing in the tri-series.

The South African team was ready to abandon the tour because of jitters over a bomb blast near their hotel on Monday.

At least seven people, including four army commandos, were killed and several others were wounded when an auto rickshaw packed with explosives blew up near a busy shopping area in the Sri Lankan capital.

Cricket South Africa, the national board, received a report from the security staff that was accompanying the team. The touring team's officials, on condition on anonymity, said the team's security staff recommended that South Africa's cricketers return home.

But Sri Lanka insisted the team should stay, and upgraded the security arrangements around the team hotels, the grounds and also on the route that the team buses will take to the venues.

The ICC did not agree with the analysis of South African team's security agency, which had in the past advised the ICC about the security arrangements for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

"The ICC has now asked for an independent security evaluation that has already begun," said Templeton, adding that South Africa's participation would depend on this fresh review of the upgraded security.

"Our cricket board has also been in touch with the High Commission here in Colombo, and we've been told by it that cricket matches and cricketers are not direct targets," Templeton said.

The Sri Lankan organizers have already redrawn the tournament schedule and Tuesday's canceled tri-series opener -- between Sri Lanka and South Africa -- will now be scheduled as the last game of the double-leg preliminary league on Aug. 29.

The final of the tri-series has been deferred by four days to Sept. 2 in the new schedule, which will be applicable if South Africa decide to play.

A final decision is expected by tomorrow, as South Africa's first outing will be the following day against India.

The series began with yesterday's game between India and Sri Lanka.

Match referee Chris Broad said that Tuesday's opener between host Sri Lanka and South Africa was canceled when the South Africans said they were not mentally prepared to play following the blast.

Beside the cricket series, Colombo this month is also hosting the multiple sport South Asian Games, which will feature nearly 1,000 athletes from eight nations. The Games' soccer competition began on Monday, but events officially kick off tomorrow.

A big contingent of athletes from India is to compete in the South Asian Games. Organizers said no participating nation had yet expressed any doubt about participating in the games.

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