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Asia Cup to go ahead in Dhaka as planned

Agence France-Presse . Colombo

Asian Cricket Council chief executive Syed Ashraful Huq speaks to reporters in Colombo on Saturday. — AFP photo Asian Cricket Council chief executive Syed Ashraful Huq speaks to reporters in Colombo on Saturday. — AFP photo

Asia’s cricket chiefs on Saturday said violence-plagued Bangladesh would remain the venue for next month’s Asia Cup and added Afghanistan as the fifth team in the regional one-day tournament.
Some observers had expected officials to move the tournament out of Bangladesh following an outbreak of violent protests and strikes in the capital Dhaka ahead of elections Sunday.
‘The tournament will go ahead as scheduled in Bangladesh from February 25,’ Asian Cricket Council chief executive Ashraful Huq told AFP after an executive board meeting in Colombo.
‘Everything is in place for the tournament, no one raised any issue about safety,’ Huq said, adding the Bangladesh Cricket Board had made a detailed security presentation at the meeting.
An ACC release said 11 matches will be played in the tournament with the final on March 8.
Election-related violence in Bangladesh has claimed more than 140 lives since late October, with opposition parties boycotting the polls and organising a series of blockades across the country.
The Pakistan Cricket Board had said on Thursday it was seeking its government’s advice about sending a team for the Asia Cup due to the continuing political unrest in Bangladesh.
But Huq said Pakistan did not raise any security concerns at the meeting. ‘Pakistan have said yes, they have not said no,’ he said.
However, a Pakistan board source told AFP on Saturday that it will seek further clarification on the Asia Cup during a meeting of the International Cricket Council on January 9.
Afghanistan will join Asia’s four Test nations—India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh—in the 50-over tournament, Huq added.
The fast-improving Afghanistan team, which has qualified for their maiden appearance in the 50-over World Cup, have also made it to their third successive World Twenty20.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board said it was grateful to the ACC and the other teams for allowing it to participate in the regional competition.
‘Afghanistan needs the kind of elite level experience that competing against big teams can provide us,’ ACB chief executive Noor Mohammad Murad said in a statement. ‘Win or lose, the experience we gain will be very important for us.’
Bangladesh is also due to host the World Twenty20 tournament from March 16 to April 6.
The three venues chosen for the World Twenty20 -- capital Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet—have all experienced violence over the past month.
An ICC spokesman told AFP last month that the world body was ‘actively monitoring’ the situation in Bangladesh.
The danger posed to teams was underlined last month when a small bomb exploded outside the hotel of the West Indies Under-19 team in the port city of Chittagong, prompting them to cut short their tour.
Sri Lanka said it will go ahead with its month-long bilateral tour of Bangladesh from January 27 that features two Tests, two Twenty20 matches and three one-day internationals.
‘We pay great attention to player safety and security. We have been assured of that,’ Cricket Sri Lanka’s secretary Nishantha Ranatunga told AFP.
‘If we want cricket to continue in this region, we need to play in these (Asian) countries.’
Sri Lanka’s cricketers had been attacked by militants during a tour of Pakistan in March, 2009 while they were on their way to resume a Test match in Lahore.
‘We have faced these (security) problems, Pakistan has faced these problems and now Bangladesh is facing them,’ Ranatunga said. ‘We must unite to face these challenges.’

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