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U-19 World Cup: Australia withdraws over safety fears; ICC invites Ireland

Dubai: The ICC on Tuesday invited Ireland to replace Australia in the Under-19 cricket World Cup and exuded confidence that the proposed security arrangements for the event in Bangladesh will be adequate.

Australia on Tuesday withdrew from the U-19 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held from January 27 to February 14, claiming that the situation in Bangladesh has not improved since the senior team had postponed their Test tour last year.

Irish supportersSupporters of the Irish national cricket team cheer during the 2015 Cricket World Cup Pool B match between Ireland and South Africa in Canberra on March 3, 2015. Pic/AFP

"Regrettably, the advice from our government suggests that the security threat to Australians travelling to Bangladesh remains as high now as it was when we postponed the Test team's tour," CA chief James Sutherland said in a statement.

"Included in that is reliable information suggesting there is a high threat to Australian interests in Bangladesh and the knowledge that the Australian government has authorised the dependants of posted diplomatic staff in Bangladesh to return home to Australia."

Sutherland said given all the advice CA had received, "we feel we had no alternative other than to make this difficult decision".

Cricket Australia apologised to the ICC and the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) over the no-show at the event.

"We have not taken this decision lightly and we apologise for the inconvenience this may create for the organisers of the tournament -- in particular the ICC and BCB," Sutherland said.

"In advising the BCB, we have reaffirmed our desire to get back to Bangladesh to play cricket as soon as possible and will continue to discuss this with them in the coming months."

The ICC said its own security manager and an independent security agency had been working closely with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and the Bangladesh security agencies, and that the planned security arrangements were satisfactory. 

"Whilst the ICC notes and respects the position of Cricket Australia, which we understand is based on advice received from the Australian Government, we are obviously disappointed with the decision," said International Cricket Council CEO David Richardson.

"The ICC takes its responsibilities around the safety and security of ICC events extremely seriously.

"And taking into consideration the full and unequivocal support of Bangladesh government that has been afforded to us at the highest level and through all local security agencies, the advice we have received from our own and independent security experts, and the robust security plan that has been developed, the ICC remains of the view the it is appropriate for event planning to continue as scheduled," he added. 

Richardson said ICC will continue to monitor the situation in Bangladesh.

"Naturally, as part of that planning process, the ICC's own security team, supported by an independent security agency, will continue to monitor closely the situation in Bangladesh, including all travel advisories provided by relevant government agencies," he said. 

"Security plans associated with an event of this size and stature are always subject to continual review to ensure that they remain appropriate and fit for purpose, and this event is no different.

"The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is an extremely important event on the ICC calendar. We remain confident that the ICC, in conjunction with the BCB, will be able to successfully deliver this event in Bangladesh," he added. 

The Australian under-19 squad will still travel to the United Arab Emirates next week to contest a tri-series of warm-up matches against Pakistan and New Zealand, CA said.

Safety fears for foreigners have heightened in Bangladesh after last year's murders of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

Bangladesh is desperate to avoid the fate of Pakistan which has had to host nearly all of its home matches at neutral venues since gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus during a 2009 Test match in Lahore.

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