Bangladesh cricket authorities played down security fears after a bomb explosion outside the hotel of a West Indian touring team on Monday, sparked jitters ahead of the World Twenty20 next March. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Sunday withdrew their Under-19 national cricket team from a seven-match series underway in Bangladesh after the bombing in the port city of Chittagong.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) officials said they were trying to persuade the team to stay on. "We've talked to West Indies Under-19 team management this morning. They are happy with the arrangements and the extra security we have made," BCB chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury told AFP. "We're trying to talk to the WICB to assure them that things are all right here. It was an isolated incident. The players were not targeted." Chowdhury said the blast in Chittagong amid escalating violence in the unrest-plagued nation would not affect the 16-nation World Twenty20 in March and April.
"We are confident the situation would be normal by then," he said.
An ICC spokesman told AFP the world body was "actively monitoring" the situation in Bangladesh and stressed it gave the highest priority to the safety of all participants in ICC events.
"Security plans for the ICC World Twenty20 2014 in Bangladesh have been drafted and are continually being reviewed and updated," the spokesman wrote in an email. "As is the case for any event, the ICC is actively monitoring the situation and continues to work closely with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) to ensure that informed decisions can be made and that plans are appropriate."
Police said a small device went off during a nationwide transport blockade on Saturday evening outside Hotel Agrabad in Chittagong, Bangladesh's second largest city, where the visiting team were staying.
Although no one was injured, the WICB decided to withdraw their squad after considering a report from their security manager Paul Slowe. "The report emphasised that the current security environment in Bangladesh is not conducive to the playing of cricket in light of the 72-hours nationwide blockade and calls for countrywide dawn to dusk protest," the WICB said in a statement.
"The State Department of the United States of America has also issued a travel alert to its citizens living in and travelling to Bangladesh," it said, adding "travel arrangements are being made to allow for the team's return to the Caribbean as quickly as possible".
During the 2011 World Cup, irate Bangladeshi fans threw stones at the West Indies team bus in Dhaka following the home team's dismissal for 58 during a nine-wicket defeat. The explosion came as a series of protests by the 18-party opposition alliance triggered widespread violence in major cities including the capital Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet -- the venues of the World Twenty20.
The opposition has been demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina steps down and makes way for a caretaker government to oversee national elections scheduled for January 5. At least 72 people have died in the violence since late October. They include several people hit by small bombs. Crippling blockades and strikes have paralysed muuch of the country, forcing the suspension of bus, lorry, ferry and train services. Elsewhere in South Asia, cricket teams have stayed away from Pakistan since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in March 2009. Australia and the West Indies refused to play World Cup matches in Colombo in 1996 following a severe blast.