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20th September 2016

England ODI captain refuses Bangladesh tour in security fears

After there was a terrorist attack in Dhaka, the captain has had to take into consideration his own personal safety

England’s ODI Captain Eoin Morgan has decided not to join the tour of Bangladesh this October because of the heightened security risk in country due to a terrorist attack in Dhaka, the country’s capital, in July.

All players in contention for selection, both for the three ODI matches and two Test Matches, were given the option not to tour, with the squad being announced last Friday on the 16th of September. The England and Wales Cricketing Board (ECB) confirmed that players who decided against touring would not be discriminated against in selection for future matches. Eoin Morgan is the biggest name to decide against touring, but is also joined by names such as Test and ODI opening batsmen, Alex Hales.

Conversely, England players Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan and Liam Dawson stated they would tour. No international side has been to Bangladesh since the July incident, with Australia cancelling a tour in October 2015 because of security fears. Morgan’s decision has resonated through the cricketing world. His decision has brought into debate the length to which personal safety must be considered over the demands of sport.

Immediate reaction to Morgan’s decision has been mixed. England player Ben Stokes took to twitter to offer his support for players choosing against touring, while ex-England player Graeme Swann also offered his support when he stated that in the current situation he wouldn’t tour. On the other hand, ex-West Indian Courtney Walsh, the current Bangladesh bowling coach, has stated Morgan’s decision has ‘surprised’ him. The harshest criticism has arisen from ex-England captains, Nasser Hussein stating Morgan ‘should be with his team’ and Michael Vaughan saying he was making ‘a big mistake’.

Photo: @benstokes38 Twitter

Hussein and Vaughan have focused in on Morgan’s role as captain of the ODI team, suggesting that he is letting the team down by prioritising his personal safety. While they are entitled to an opinion, I think it’s easy for Hussein and Vaughan to criticise Morgan from the comfort of retirement. I feel they are hanging onto outdated ideas of captaincy. Morgan’s role as captain should not have influenced his decision on whether to tour or not. His ability to captain a cricket teams should by no means translate into the ability to lead people in adversity, as Hussein and Vaughan are suggesting.

Moreover, I feel that Hussein and Vaughan see the captain as the be all and end all. On the contrary, some of the best teams are made up of several leaders. The seasoned ODI player Jos Buttler has been announced as captain for the tour, this is an excellent opportunity for him, as well as other players, to show their leadership capabilities.
The ECB announced in August that, after stringent analysis of the threat in Bangladesh, it would go ahead with the tour. The ECB would never want to even slightly endanger England players. The confirmation of the tour is an expression of absolute confidence in players’ security and safety. Moreover, the Foreign Office describes “a heightened threat of further terrorist attacks” in Bangladesh; a similar warning is issued for the majority of European cities, including London, where cricket is played throughout the summer.
Morgan has personal experience of safety issues: he was playing in an IPL match in 2010 when a bomb went off in the ground. He told the BBC: ‘Once or twice security became a distraction and, when it has been, I told myself that I’d never put myself in that situation again.’
While I understand Morgan’s reasons, I feel his decision shows an acute lack of trust in the ECB. Moreover, in losing the ODI captain, the ODI series becomes merely a training exercise. Morgan’s position in the ODI team is undoubtedly cemented. While fringe players will get a chance to play international cricket, in my mind matches that don’t include the complete 1st XI lack purpose. If matches lack purpose, what’s the point in going to such lengths (contending with such risk) to play them?
Morgan has staked that the demands of his role as an England player are subordinate to the personal safety and security risks. While I respect it, I think his decision not to tour Bangladesh, discounting the assurances given by the ECB, is wrong.

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