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Kiwis to send security chief to India

Last updated on: August 13, 2003 14:52 IST

New Zealand Cricket will send its security chief Reg Dickson to monitor the situation in Ahmedabad which will host the first Test against New Zealand, rather than Kanpur between October 8 and 12.

"New Zealand Cricket is the most security-conscious cricket nation in the world," its official spokesman said. "We will be taking no chances."

The good news is he did not foresee any trouble with the tour itself. "India is the cash-cow of international cricket and financially critical for the game's health," he added.

New Zealand Cricket has taken into account the successful hosting of last November's one-day international against the West Indies by Ahmedabad after thousands lost their lives in the communal carnage in Gujarat early last year.

The first three one-day internationals in the India-West Indies series last year were disrupted -- while the games in Jamshedpur and Nagpur were briefly interrupted by missile-throwing fans, the match in Rajkot was abandoned after West Indian fielders were hit by plastic water bottles.

Dickson has a reputation of being a hardliner on security matters. Last year he pulled a New Zealand team inside the pavilion after a couple of water bottles were thrown at the fielders during a one-day international game in Karachi.

Gujarat Cricket Association president and former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin is quick to allay concerns New Zealand Cricket may have about Ahmedabad's choice as venue.

"We are the only state association, besides Mumbai, to engage the services of Yellow Security Agency -- forget trespassers, not even a paper is allowed inside the ground," Amin said.

New Zealand Cricket goes to extreme lengths to ensure safety for its players. In the past it has postponed, abandoned or cancelled tours to all the three cricket nations in the sub-continent -- Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India because of volatile, unstable conditions.

It asked its team to return from Singapore while it waited in transit to board a flight to Pakistan for a cricket series after 9/11. It also asked its 'A' team to abandon a tour of India and return home on short notice. Besides, it cancelled its women cricket team's tour to India.

Martin Snedden, Chief Executive Officer, New Zealand Cricket, did not think there was a parallel between the forthcoming cricket tour and the women team's visit which he cancelled in 2001.

"The Indian Women Cricket Association has a voluntary administration and few resources. It was clear there would be little or no security for the women's team, and no ability to remove the team quickly from a region or out of the country, should there be civil unrest or an escalation of military or terrorist activity," Snedden said.

The men's tour, in contrast, is backed by an entire security apparatus with full assurance from government quarters.

"For example, thousands of policemen not only line the boundary, they also post themselves within the stands to ensure hooliganism is not allowed to take place," Amin said. "We have a sizeable number of volunteers to give a helping hand to the police."

Last February, New Zealand agreed to tour Pakistan only after its interior ministry gave a written assurance that the Kiwi players would be evacuated in case of a tense situation. As luck would have it, the assurance needed to be carried out after a suicide attack outside the tourists' hotel in Karachi in May, shortly before the start of the Karachi Test, left 14 people dead, including 11 French naval engineers.

In Sri Lanka, the Kiwis abandoned their 1987 tour after the Tamil Tigers conducted an attack on the busy central bus terminal in Colombo.

In 1992, the Kiwis made a hurried departure after the Tigers assassinated the country's naval commander just outside the team hotel in Colombo.

This year, it all but abandoned the tour to Sri Lanka because of the deadly SARS virus which killed more than 200 people worldwide before going ahead.

New Zealand decided against visiting Kenya -- where Israeli tourists were attacked by terrorists -- for its match in the 2003 World Cup earlier this year, invoking a financial penalty from the International Cricket Council.

Trans Cricket News Pvt Ltd


Ashish Shukla