CRICKET Australia chief James Sutherland says next week's second Test against India is "at this stage" in no danger of being shifted from Hyderabad despite bombings that killed at least a dozen people in the city on Thursday night.
At least two separate blasts occurred in a crowded area outside a movie theatre and a bus station in the southern city's suburb of Dilsukh Nagar, police said at the scene. Indian television reported that other cities had subsequently been placed on “high alert”. It was the first major bombing in India since September 2011.
Sutherland said the players had been fully briefed and had told team management their focus was on the first Test, which started today in Chennai, before the team heads to Hyderabad on Wednesday.
‘‘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 (and) we’ll be advised by them,’’ Australian captain Michael Clarke said at the team’s hotel today before travelling to the ground amid high security.
Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi Stadium is due to play host to the second of four Tests in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series between Australia and India. It is scheduled to begin on March 2 – with Michael Clarke's squad to arrive in the city next Wednesday after the conclusion of the first Test in Chennai, starting on Friday.
"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 on Friday. "At this stage I wouldn't be calling into question things going ahead in Hyderabad going ahead."
Sutherland said Australia's team manager, Gavin Dovey, had sent players text messages overnight updating them on the situation and the increased security presence that has been added as a result of the explosions.
Dozens of extra police surrounded the Chennai hotel where the Australian and Indian teams are staying on Friday morning.
"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.
"We've got great confidence in the BCCI and the relevant authorities here to be able to prepare as best as possible for whatever issues may change from day to day. We're very comfortable with everything that has been done so far on this tour."
Sutherland said there had been no concern expressed from the players but they would be kept updated. "All they are interested in right now is this Test match here in Chennai."
Australian captain Michael Clarke added: "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. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people of Hyderabad who have been affected."
Australian Cricketers' Association chief Paul Marsh said he had been in contact with the 17 players in Australia's touring squad and would engage the union's own security expert and liaise with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Travellers are advised on the DFAT website to “exercise a high degree of caution in India at this time because of the risk of terrorism [and] civil unrest”.
"It's day one of a Test match so I don't want to distract them but I've sent them all an email," Marsh said. "We also have own independent security advisor who assesses these type of situations. It's really about trying to understand what the level of risk is of going to Hyderabad. If the players have got any concerns they will voice them to me."
Indian media outlets claimed on Thursday night that Australia was refusing to travel to Hyderabad but this was strongly denied by a team spokesman in Chennai. "We are aware of the unfortunate incident in Hyderabad," he said. "The safety of the squad is of paramount importance and Australian team management and CA staff are liaising with the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), local authorities and the Australian High Commission to ensure we have all the appropriate information. To date, we have no information to suggest there is any threat to the team in Chennai as a result of the incident."
Australia previously cancelled a tour of Pakistan in March 2008 because of security concerns after a succession of six major attacks in the space of less than a month that killed more than 600 people. Australia has not toured there since, nor has any international team since Sri Lanka's team bus was attacked by armed militants en route to the Test ground in Lahore in 2009.
Bomb blasts have also cast a shadow over an Australian tour of India before. In September 2008 Cricket Australia ordered an urgent review of the security situation following five coordinated explosions in crowded markets in New Delhi that left at least 30 people dead and more than 100 injured. Three weeks later, however, Australia embarked on the tour and completed the four-Test series.