Fireworks at the World Cup

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The refusal of Australia and West Indies to play in Sri Lanka failed to dampen spirits at the World Cup's opening ceremony yesterday in Calcutta's Eden Gardens, where110,000 spectators welcomed the teams from the 12 participating nations.

In cricket committee meetings yesterday, the noise and fireworks were nearly as impressive as those in Eden Gardens. The other host countries, India and Pakistan, backed up Sri Lanka's insistence that the Australians and West Indians should play their matches in Colombo. Both refused. The Australian captain, Mark Taylor, said: "Whatever the reactions and the fall-out in the rest of the world, we are not going to play in Colombo, risking our lives." Nothing was said about Australia's scheduled tour to Sri Lankan in August.

The Sri Lankan team now have a four-point advantage without having struck a ball and the tournament has been compromised before it has begun. Australia and the West Indies can still gain enough points to qualify, but the finishing order in their group, and therefore the way the quarter-finalists line up no longer depends purely on the results of cricket matches.

"When danger persists, we cannot force our boys to go there and play in a relaxed mind," Taylor said. The Tamil Tiger rebels, who are suspected of planting a bomb recently in Colombo which killed 80 people, said through a Paris spokesman that they would not harm the visiting cricket players or sabotage the matches. Two teams, Zimbabwe and Kenya, are going ahead with their Sri Lankan matches.

Ultimately the International Cricket Council, nominally the game's governing body, did not have sufficient power to force a settlement. "I feel it needs a little more clout and this is something that should be discussed," the council's chairman, Sir Clyde Walcott, said.

To prove no harm can come to cup teams in Sri Lanka, Pilcom, the cup organisers, said yesterday that a goodwill match will be played in Colombo tomorrow between the Sri Lankan side and a team made up of top Indian and Pakistani players. For India and Pakistan to agree to play together is a minor miracle; three times they have fought wars and the two feuding neighbours are still exchanging fire in disputed Kashmir.