Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Sri Lankans ridicule fleeing Proteas

AFP , COLOMBOAFP, LONDON

A Sri Lankan commando keeps watch as the Sri Lankan national cricket team takes part in a practice session at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Sri Lanka's cricket chiefs and media yesterday slammed South Africa for pulling out of the tri-series as India looked forward to playing three matches against the hosts.

The Proteas abandoned the tri-series on Wednesday, saying "the current risk to the team is at an unacceptable level" following a blast near their hotel on Monday which killed seven people and injured eight.

But Cricket South Africa's assertion that an independent security assessment by a Dubai-based firm agreed with the team's own fears was ridiculed by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chief executive Duleep Mendis.

"I am amazed at their decision to return home," said Mendis, a former Sri Lankan Test captain.

"The government put in place presidential-level security for the team, yet they were not convinced. They took advice from a Dubai firm which is even more surprising. I did not see anyone from this firm in Colombo, yet they prepared a security report within 24 hours sitting in Dubai," he said.

The state-run Daily News, under the headline "South African cricketers chicken out," said: "They are used to playing in threatening conditions. In South Africa, one has to be careful when even taking a stroll on the streets."

India, not surprisingly, was praised for staying in Colombo to play three one-day internationals against the hosts today, on Sunday and Tuesday in lieu of the tri-series.

"India understood the situation better than the South Africans and accepted our assurances on security," SLC media manager Samantha Algama said.

The three matches will be played as day games at the Sinhalese Sports Club with a reserve day being kept aside for each match in case of bad weather.

The tri-series did not see a ball being bowled in the first two matches due to heavy rain which lashed the Sri Lankan capital over the last week.

The forecast is for clear weather over the weekend.

Indian captain Rahul Dravid said his team was more concerned about the weather than the security arrangements in place.

"No one came to me and said he wanted to go home," Dravid told reporters. "Everyone is keen to play. We are probably worried more about the weather than the security."

Dravid denied there was any contradiction between South Africa flying home and the Indians opting to stay on in Colombo.

"South Africa have gone by the recommendations of their people," he said.

"We have spoken to everyone concerned and we have full confidence and faith in what they have to say. It is sad, and it was unfortunate that the tri-series had to be called off. We don't live in a perfect world," Dravid said.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), which is headed by Percy Sonn of South Africa, said it would not act immediately on the Proteas' pullout.

"It's not for the ICC to judge South Africa," ICC media manager Brian Murgatroyd said from his office in Dubai. "They made what they felt was the correct decision."

"It's now up to South Africa and Sri Lanka to come to an agreement as to when they can play these matches. The ICC will be involved in resolving the dispute only if the two cricket boards can't do so," Murgatroyd said.

Pakistan were unable to make any breakthroughs in a rain shortened first morning of the fourth and final Test against England at The Oval yesterday.

England, an unbeatable 2-0 up in the series, were 27 without loss off eight overs after Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss and elected to field.

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