TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
CRICKET paled into insignificance on Tuesday, the eve of the first international of South Africa’s tour of England.
Talk of safety and security has replaced the usual debate about conditions, tactics and team make-up in the wake of the bomb blast at a pop concert in Manchester on Monday that killed 22 people and injured scores more.
“The players are uneasy; there was a lot of chatter at the breakfast table,” South Africa’s team manager, Mohammed Moosajee, told reporters in Leeds, where the first one-day international will be played on Wednesday.
“I’m happy to say we’ve had constant communication from the ECB (England Cricket Board) and the security manager, and there have been some reassurances and guarantees put in place that the security arrangements currently as they stand will be supplemented starting today.
“There is a heightened sense of awareness and of the security situation.”
Moosajee said that would translate into beefed up arrangements.
“We’ve been told there will be more visible policing at the stadiums, at practice sessions as well as the hotels that we will reside at.
“The hotel we will stay at when we are in Manchester for the last test match (from August 4 to 8) is walking distance away from where the events unfolded (on Monday).
“So there have been some genuine concerns and I think the process has started to make sure the players are reassured that arrangements are being made to try and keep them safe.”
The Champions Trophy, which is scheduled to be played in London, Birmingham and Cardiff from June 1 to 18 – between the ODI and test series – could provide targets for more attacks.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) moved on Tuesday to reassure the public that the event would be secure.
“We operate on advice from our tournament security directorate – in conjunction with the ECB and relevant authorities – to ensure that we have a robust safety and security plan for both tournaments,” an ICC statement said.
“We will continue to work with authorities over the coming hours and days and review our security in line with the threat levels.
“The security situation has been very much front and centre of our preparations and we constantly review our procedures to guarantee they are as effective as possible to keep everyone safe.”
Moosajee said the fact that the South Africans were in a country that is considered safer than others had influenced their reaction to the bombing.
“As things stand, there was no mention of us even thinking of abandoning the tour,” he said.
“If the intelligence information provided tells us something else then obviously we will have to reconsider.
“A lot of it is a perception in the sense that you are coming to a first-world country; generally the measures are in place to provide that kind of security.”
Not that the South Africans were complacent: “If someone has planned for an attack to happen you can have all the intelligence in place but if something is going to fail on the day, it’s going to happen.”
But they understood their role in not allowing fear to stop people living life as they chose.
“I don’t think that, as sportspeople, we should allow ourselves to be held to ransom because otherwise you won’t have world events; you won’t have touring teams,” Moosajee said.
Were the players scared by what had happened?
“There was uneasiness,” Moosajee said. “I am not sure you can say frightened; there were a lot of questions and rightly so.
“Players deserve to have the answers from the questions they pose.”
More happily, questions over the fitness of AB de Villiers – who missed South Africa’s tour matches against Sussex and Northamptonshire on Friday and Sunday with a respiratory issue – have been answered.
He has been cleared to play on Wednesday, which would end an absence from the national that started on March 5 and saw him miss the test series in New Zealand.
Quinton de Kock scored a century in the tour matches and there were half-centuries for Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller and Wayne Parnell.
South Africa will be less confident about their attack going into Wednesday’s match, what with five of the nine bowlers used on tour conceding more than a run a ball.