DHAKA: Bangladeshi army commandos abseiled into the national stadium on Thursday as they staged a war game designed to reassure England’s cricketers over their security on the eve of the opening ODI of their controversial tour.
More than a dozen commandos scaled down ropes from helicopters hovering over the nets at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, which is hosting the first two games in a three-match series beginning on Friday night.
The side is being skippered by Jos Buttler after regular ODI captain Eoin Morgan decided not to go on the tour in the wake of an attack by jihadists earlier this year on a cafe full of foreigners.
Twenty-two people were killed in July’s assault on the Holey Artisan Cafe in Dhaka’s upmarket Gulshan district, casting doubt over whether Bangladesh’s security forces could guarantee the England team’s safety.
Reg Dickason, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s security chief who eventually endorsed the tour after paying a field trip to Bangladesh, expressed his satisfaction on Thursday with safety measures at the ground.
“What we witnessed today is a graphic demonstration of the response capabilities of the Bangladesh Army and other security agencies,” he told reporters. “It gives a lot of confidence touring a wonderful country and to have the support of the agencies as well. The security overall with the experience in Bangladesh is outstanding.”
Lieutenant Colonel Imrul Hasan, commander of the One Para Commando Battalion, said his men stood ready to provide any security support to the visiting team.
“Whenever Bangladesh government entrust us with any responsibility, we take all our effort to fulfill the obligation,” he said. “We want to make it clear, Bangladesh Army will be ready for any requirement of the series as well.”
Bangladesh authorities had earlier promised England’s cricketers “unprecedented security” in a desperate attempt to prevent the country from becoming a no-go zone for international sport.
Bangladesh is desperate to avoid the fate of Pakistan who — apart from a lone series against Zimbabwe — have not hosted any international cricket since gunmen attacked Sri Lanka’s team bus during a 2009 Test in Lahore.
Australia pulled out of a planned tour a year ago after their cricket board’s chief executive James Sutherland said there was a “risk of terrorism in Bangladesh targeting Australian nationals”.
Earlier, Australia’s football team was only persuaded to travel to Dhaka for a World Cup qualifier last November after authorities drew up an extensive security plan, aware that a no-show would see them forfeit the match.