Cricket: Guyana faces boycott by Australians

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA'S CRICKET authorities will not sanction a return to trouble-prone Guyana until they are sure improved security measures have been taken in the wake of further crowd violence in the West Indies.

The Australian Cricket Board considered the frightening scenes at the final one-day international in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Sunday as way out of character for cricket fans on the island. But the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, the ACB and the players' union none the less voiced their disgust at the events in Bridgetown so soon after two crowd invasions in Georgetown, Guyana, last week.

The Barbados crowd pelted the Australian team with bottles after the controversial run-out of the home-town hero Sherwin Campbell - and one of the missiles missed the head of the touring captain, Steve Waugh, by inches, prompting him to claim he had feared for his life. Last Wednesday a chaotic invasion of the Bourda ground in Guyana ruined the result of the fifth one-day match and attracted widespread condemnation. An ACB spokesman, Michael Hogan, said yesterday that the board considered the latest events as "totally unacceptable". He added that the ACB chief executive, Malcolm Speed, would raise safety fears at an International Cricket Council meeting in London next month.

"We won't be going back to Guyana unless things change," Hogan said. "Barbados isn't quite the same situation - as Malcolm says, the Bajans are very enthusiastic and easy-going cricket lovers."

Yesterday, the ICC chief executive, David Richards, reacted quickly to condemn the violence and outline what he believes the West Indian Cricket Board should do to minimise the possibility of crowd trouble. "These are very unsatisfactory incidents, they were very ugly indeed," Richards said. "The two events involved different behaviour but they were equally worrying. There are a number of things that we have to do. We have to send a strong message out to fans everywhere that you can't put players at risk They are there to entertain and it is too much to expect for them to put up with it."

Richards called into question security measures taken at Caribbean grounds. "The bottom line is that you can't throw bottles if you're not allowed to have them inside the ground," he said. "At most cricket grounds the world over you are not allowed to take bottles into games. The West Indies' cricket authorities will have to look at that."

But in World Cup year when the planet's cricketing nations converge in England, Richards dismissed suggestions that the upheaval might be racially motivated. "This is not down to racial tension," he said.

The Australian Cricketers' Association president, Tim May, was disgusted but not surprised at the crowd disturbances and called on the International Cricket Council to establish a committee to rate all international venues on security factors.

And the Australian captain, Steve Waugh, said: "You can't risk blokes' safety for a game of cricket. It was sheer luck a bottle didn't hit someone on the head. It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed."

Howard joined the condemnation of the crowd behaviour. "I think it is quite distressing that mob violence and mob intimidation can have an impact on the game," he said. "It does appear... the umpire's decision was altered as a result."