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09 June 2023

Australia to play in Hyderabad despite blasts


Australia plan to play the second Test against India in Hyderabad as scheduled next week despite deadly bomb attacks in the city on the eve of the Test series opener, reports said on Friday.

The twin blasts on Thursday killed 14 people and wounded dozens more in a busy neighbourhood in the southern Indian city, raising questions over whether Australia would play the second Test starting on March 2.

But Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland told Fairfax newspapers the match was still on as planned as Australia prepared for the opening match in the four-Test series in Chennai starting later Friday.

"As far as I'm concerned we are playing the second Test in Hyderabad next week. That's where we are at," said Sutherland, who is with the team in Chennai.

Sutherland told Fairfax he was happy to continue to Hyderabad where the team is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

"We've got great confidence in the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and the relevant authorities here to be able to prepare as best as possible for whatever issues may change from day to day," he said.

"We're very comfortable with everything that has been done so far on this tour."

"We'll obviously take advice from relevant authorities and work with the BCCI and others here to make assessments around Hyderabad but at the same time plans have been in place for a long time," Sutherland said.

"At this stage I wouldn't be calling into question things going ahead in Hyderabad."

He added that team manager Gavin Dovey had sent players text messages overnight updating them on the blasts and that security had been stepped up.

Dozens of extra police reportedly surrounded the Chennai hotel where the Australian and Indian teams are staying.

Captain Michael Clarke said his players were focused on the Chennai game.

"From the team's point of view, our focus is wholly and solely on the field because we've got people off the field who are experts in what is going on. We'll be advised by them," he said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people of Hyderabad who have been affected."

Earlier, media reports raised doubts over the tour.

"Australia's cricket tour of India has been plunged into uncertainty," said the Herald-Sun newspaper, while the Sydney Morning Herald carried a headline "Hyderabad Test in doubt as bombings rock city".

Australia pulled out of a tour to Pakistan in 2008 over security concerns after a series of bombings in the troubled country. They also refused to play any matches in the 1996 World Cup in Sri Lanka after bombings there.

Cricket Australia, which said the safety of players was paramount, earlier said the tourists had received "no information to suggest there is any threat to the team" but that talks were ongoing.

The attacks targeted a Hindu district in the city, a hub of India's computing industry in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, home to local offices of Google and Microsoft among other Western IT companies.

After the blasts, the Foreign Affairs Department in Canberra warned Australians following the tour in India that terror attacks could happen anywhere.

"We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in India at this time because of the risk of terrorism, civil unrest, crime and vehicle accidents," the department said.

"Terrorist attacks could occur anywhere at any time in India with little or no warning," it said.

"Possible targets include public places in New Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities, and Indian security and political interests."

However, the overall level of advice for Australians in India has not changed, with the department recommending people exercise a high degree of caution.

No major international cricket has been played in Pakistan since a deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team bus by armed militants in Lahore in 2009.