NEW DELHI // International cricket in India will go into recess for at least two weeks in the wake of the deadly attacks that killed more than 100 people in Mumbai. England and India officials agreed in an emergency meeting today to postpone the last two matches of their limited-overs international series in Guwahati and New Delhi. Next month's two Test matches in Ahmedabad and Mumbai are also in doubt.
The inaugural Twenty20 Champions League, featuring provincial teams from Australia, South Africa, England, Pakistan and India, was postponed to a date yet to be determined. It was due to start Wednesday. "We held consultations among all the stakeholders ... (and) it was agreed that in the best interests of all concerned, the inaugural edition of the Champions League Twenty20 should be postponed," the tournament chairman Lalit Modi said.
"We very strongly condemn this dastardly and heinous criminal act of a few which has resulted in the loss of precious lives and injury to hundreds. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and we are with them in their hour of grief," Modi said. As well as at least 101 dead, hundreds of people were injured and Westerners were taken hostage in the co-ordinated overnight attacks in Mumbai, India's financial hub.
The England team had stayed in one of the hotels targeted earlier in the tour and had been due to return there on Dec 16. The ECB said the team would remain in Bhubaneswar, near the venue of England's last match in Cuttack, for 24 hours pending further talks with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). "The safety and security of the England team is of the utmost importance to ECB," Hugh Morris, the managing director of England Cricket, said in a statement. "We have reviewed all our security arrangements in the light of these attacks and will be taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of the team.
"The events of last night were deeply distressing and the situation is still unfolding. We are urgently seeking information from expert sources." The BCCI is still hopeful of reviving the Test series, due to start Dec 11, after the hosts won the first five matches in the ODI series. Morris said no decision had been made on the Tests, yet. "Whenever England go to play cricket we have security advice and we act on that advice," Morris said. "If the security advice is it is safe and secure for players and management to go, that is what we will do."
The Professional Cricketers' Association said player safety would be the determining factor, hinting the Test series could be scrapped. "The safety of the players is absolutely paramount in this whole thing," Dougie Brown, cricket chairman of the PCA, told the Press Association. "The game of cricket is insignificant when people's lives are at threat. "Can the safety of our players be guaranteed? On the basis of what we have seen in the last few hours, no." Australian and English provincial clubs had already postponed travel to India for the Champions League. Australian star Shane Warne, captain-coach of the India champions Rajasthan Royals, was on a stopover in Singapore en route to Mumbai when he saw news reports on the terror attacks.
One of the luxury hotels in flames, the Taj Mahal, was where English side Middlesex and the Royals planned to stay. "It's unbelievable, the place is chaos," Warne told Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper website. "We are heading to Mumbai and that [the Taj Mahal] is the hotel we are staying at. I don't think we will be going [to India] now - why would you? "It is just not worth the risk. No amount of money is worth the risk with what is going on over there at the moment."
Cricket Australia halted the departures of the Western Australia and Victoria state teams, along with Test stars Mike Hussey, Matthew Hayden and Shane Watson who were playing for Indian teams. Naeem Gulzar, president of Sialkot Region, Pakistan's representative in the Champions League, said his team had no problems if matches were shifted out of Mumbai to Bangalore or Chennai. "After last night's incident in Mumbai, cricket is now secondary and it is too early to say what will be the future of Champions League," Gulzar told The AP. "It is highly sensitive issue."
Even the unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL) Twenty20 competition was affected, with organisers cancelling a World Series League between ICL Bangladesh and ICL Pakistan in the western Indian city of Ahmadabad. *AP