Captain Eion Morgan and Alastair Cook are the two key figures in the next fortnight as the England players decide whether to believe the ECB’s assurance of security on their tour of Bangladesh.
England’s wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler reflected the England players’ initial uncertainty when he refused the opportunity to throw wholehearted support behind the ECB’s goes ahead. “There is a lot of information to digest,” was as far as Buttler would go, adding that the players’ meeting on Thursday evening was “emotive” as the ECB’s head of security Reg Dickason told them about the security measures such as military convoys.
For the tour of Bangladesh, no players will be pressurized into touring Bangladesh, according to the England team director Andrew Strauss. But the decisions made by Cook and Morgan, the Test and ODI captains, will inevitably influence their players.
Morgan has already talked of the tour as a personal choice. Established as England’s 50 over and 20 over captain, Morgan could afford to miss the three one-day internationals in Bangladesh confident that England needs him to oversee their challenge for their first global 50 over the trophy, whether the Champions Trophy next summer or the World Cup 2019.
Test captain Cook may raise the issue of birth of his second child in October as a reason for not touring Bangladesh. As the one-day games come first, however, he could stay at home until the middle of the month before flying out to join the Test team.
ECB Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss said that the purpose of Thursday’s meeting- attended by the England one-day squad, Cook and several senior Test players with James Anderson on a conference call was Dickason to share the security plan with the players. They would then consider it and decide before indicating their availability to tour of Bangladesh and India, with the Test and one-day squads due to be announced on or around 9 September and the one-day squad departing on 30 September
“Most of the speaking was done by Reg Dickason and rightly so,” Strauss explained. “It was an information-sharing meeting and an opportunity for them to ask questions, and now’s the time for them to go away and digest that, and take it all in and speak to people and ask any further questions they may have.”
“At no stage in that meeting did we ask any players about whether they were going to make themselves available. We are not at that stage yet, this is about sharing information and I am certainly hopeful that we are able to convince the players that it’s safe to tour there, and certainly I’m 100% convinced that’s the case. I’ve got the utmost confidence in Reg and his experience in these matters, and that’s why the ECB have made this decision to press ahead with this tour.”
Strauss further said that he and the CB chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Tom Harrison would all go on the tour at some stage.
Strauss was in 2008 faced the similar position as a player in 2008 when England was hesitating about whether to return to India after the Mumbai massacre before he advocated their return.
“I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to say just because something happened in 2008 that means it will happen exactly the same way this time. But obviously, those players that have been through that experience before have a pretty good idea of how these things happen in practice.Strauss refused to say whether Cook and Morgan would go.”
“We can’t force anyone to go on any tour and nor would we want to. Our job is to assure them that the security situation there is safe, and if they have those assurances then there’s no other reason to pull out of the tour. I’ve been there before, I know this is an emotive topic, and for a lot of people they are going through it for the first time. So it’s not easy and that’s why it’s important we give them space and the time to digest it all and ask any questions they may have.”
However, Strauss didn’t g reveal any plan for counterterrorism to the media. “Reg gave the players information about the capabilities of groups out there and more importantly the security plan that was in place. There’s one thing having a plan, there’s another thing implementing it, and one thing that has assured us all was the fact that Reg was able to see a very similar plan implemented for the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year.”
England supporters should make their own assessment after referring to the Foreign office travel advice, Strauss said. The tour is going ahead because the ECB are satisfied with the security plan designed for the players alone.
“Once they have that assurance I am very hopeful we will have all the squad coming together and saying let’s go as a group. If and when anything else happens (like another terrorist attack), that’s a different conversation and it’s not something we should be entertaining at this stage.
“I think it’s worth saying Reg Dickason has been on both sides of the coin – he’s pulled teams out of tours before, he’s given teams the go-ahead to tour places. The great thing for us is that we have him on board and we have that benefit of all those years of experience.”