Windies players skeptical of Sri Lanka tour By Tony Cozier
Stabroek News
October 17, 2001

Carl Hooper is concerned over safety. So is Ramnaresh Sarwan and several other players.

But, unless there is an escalation of the present United States' counter-attack on Afghanistan and the conflict spreads throughout the region, the West Indies tour of Sri Lanka, scheduled to start November 1, is set to go ahead.

West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Wes Hall and chief executive Gregory Shillingford will be made aware of the players' concerns prior to the International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow and Friday and will seek assurances on security from the Sri Lanka board representatives.

The staging of general elections December 8 in an always politically volatile country is another issue to be raised by the WICB officials.

The Sri Lankan board has already pointed out that the island-nation is not affected by the current crisis and that the tour should proceed as normal.

The ICC is keen that its 10-year programme of Test cricket, drawn up last year, is not needlessly disrupted and will propose a system of financial penalties on members who default on tours without good reason.

New Zealand cancelled their scheduled tour of Pakistan three days after the September 11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington that triggered the present United States attack on neighbouring Afghanistan and instability in Pakistan.

England's tour of India, scheduled to start November 18, is also in jeopardy because of its proximity to the hostilities and its ongoing border conflicts with Pakistan.

Hooper told the media after Sunday's Red Stripe Bowl victory over Barbados in Jamaica he had spoken to a few team members on the subject but said the matter would be discussed at a team meeting at the pre-tour camp that started in Kingston on Monday

"I've spoken to a few individuals and I would say that I myself am concerned," Hooper said."We're going to have a meeting and that is one of the things (safety) we are going to discuss and then, if need be, we will air our opinions with the president before he goes off to his meeting."

Sarwan, voted the Most Valuable Player of the finals, indicated the general feeling among the Guyanese chosen in the team of 16.

"It's been quite a worry for most of us but I can only speak of the Guyanese fellows," he said. "Still, there is nothing we can do so that when we go there we'll have to be 100 per cent focussed to play."

"I'm a bit scared going there, knowing what's happening between the United States and Afghanistan," he added.

Long before the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that led to the present conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka has had its own problems with terrorist violence from the separatist Tamil Tigers organisation.

The West Indies and Australia declined to play their scheduled World Cup matches in Colombo in 1996 following a blast triggered by a Tamil Tigers suicide bomber that killed 80 and injured over 1,000 in the capital.

There have been other terrorist incidents during cricket tours, most recently when the civilian airport was attacked while New Zealand were there for Tests and one-day internationals.

But no international cricket match has been disrupted nor any cricketer injured as a result of terrorism.

The West Indies are scheduled to tour Pakistan next February and March but, even now, that seems unlikely.