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World Cup security chiefs promise rock solid defence

Last updated on: February 18, 2011 17:52 IST

'Safety and security does not seem to be an issue'



Never mind the players or fans, it is the security chiefs responsible for the safety of the teams and hundreds of thousands of spectators who so far sound most confident ahead of the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

The six-week festival of cricket in the subcontinent begins in Dhaka on Saturday with a meeting between joint hosts Bangladesh and India and will be followed by 48 matches culminating in the final in Mumbai on April 2.

The tournament is also being played in Sri Lanka.

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Haroon Lorgat, the man ultimately responsible for the safe delivery of the World Cup, described security as a "non issue". He said the ICC has all the necessary arrangements with governments and police forces in place.

"We have gained enormous amounts of experience over the last few years. In fact, safety and security does not seem to be an issue for anyone," he said this week.

"We are mature in our processes, we're very robust as a consequence of the experience we've gained. We've got systems in place, we've got personnel in place.

"It's an issue that certainly would have concerned me and engaged me a lot in the past. It's fair to say that because of the maturity we've reached in that area it's in fact a non-issue."

Image: Security personnel watch the 2011 World Cup warm-up match between Zimbabwe and Ireland in Nagpur


'No special cause of concern for security'

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As Lorgat concedes, security has been anything but a non-issue not long ago in cricket which has a recent bloody record in the sub-continent.

Less than two years ago the touring Sri Lankan team were ambushed by gunmen in Pakistan and six policemen were killed and seven players and officials were injured in the shootout.

A driver in one of the team buses was also killed.

Security in Mumbai has never been far from its residents' minds either since the late November day in 2008 when co-ordinated shooting attacks resulted in 164 deaths and more than 300 being wounded.

Mumbai does not host its first match until March 13 and security in the city has been low key with the vast majority of non-Indian cricket fans yet to make their way to the city.

UK Bansal, Secretary, Internal Security, said he too is satisfied that India was prepared.

"We are as of now having no special cause of concern for security in these matches from the terrorist angle," he said.

He added that each state in India was responsible for policing and general security arrangements with his department taking an overview.

Delhi had asked for, and received, extra back-up for the World Cup as it had other police commitments in the city which required resources, Bansal added.

Image: Michael Clarke with the Australian team security officer on from the boundary as a large number of police surround the field in Kochi

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Armed forces will play a significant role in WC security

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Indian and ICC officials declined to reveal the personnel and precise security arrangements in place -- each match will be different, according to Bansal.

However, Bangladeshi officials revealed armed forces will play a significant role there.

A strike force unit comprising commandos and infantry troops will maintain its security, defence officials said.

"The strike force will also be equipped with helicopters from Bangladesh Air Force and the army aviation unit," Brigadier General Matiur Rahman told reporters.

Members of the elite Rapid Action Battalion and police conducted a mock security drill at Shere Bangla National Stadium, the match venue, last Saturday.

Similar drills are being executed at hotels and other places where players and their fans are expected to gather during the tournament.

"We are dedicated to maintain tight security for players, cricket officials and foreign guests expected to visit the country," he said.

Six group matches and two quarter-finals will be played in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Image: Security personnel take part in an emergency drill after a simulated blast at a stadium in Dhaka

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Sri Lankan security is traditionally tight

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Sri Lankan security is traditionally tight -- with or without the Cricket World Cup being played within its borders.

Although Sri Lanka's 25-year war with the separatist Tamil Tigers ended in May 2009, security remains tight even if the country is no longer on a war footing.

Soldiers still man checkpoints across Sri Lanka, and the police force retains its battle-hardened Special Task Force, trained in commando operations.

"I can ensure the security of the players and the spectators and there is no need to worry about the security as we can guarantee the security," Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage told said.

"We have deployed specialised, trained people to provide the security following a special meeting with the IGP (Inspector General of Police)."

Image: Muttiah Muralitharan (left) and Thilan Samaraweera enter the field as a security official looks on

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