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What were you doing when you heard the breaking news about the London bombings of 2005? You had probably just switched on your TV to tune into the latest stock market news, political squabbling or to catch up with the latest reports from the enthralling Ashes series. Undoubtedly, you were shocked to hear of the blasts.
Some would have given a thought to the safety of the cricketers, but most would never have considered that the English and Aussie cricketers may have been caught in the middle of terrorist attacks. After all, how many international cricketers travel by bus and subway when they are on tour? I recall, on a personal level, the need of the hour was to ensure all family and friends in London were safe.
A year on, in another angle on the cowardly blasts a man who purports to know the family of one of the London bombers has claimed that the original target for the bombs were not the buses and trains of London's public transport system, but the venue of the second Ashes test, Edgbaston. According to him, the plan was for the bombers to gain employment at the ground and "spray" sarin gas into the changing rooms of both teams during the match.
He further claims that the plans were modified only after one of the bombers objected, because - get this - he was a passionate cricket fan. No security agency had even an inkling that this was the case. Initial reports suggest that security experts are not convinced of these claims. I would like to know why this man did not come forward before the London bombings?
I must confess, that although these claims are chilling, I do not believe that a minor scuffle between a suicide bomber and his "leader" will result in a change of plans that would have been hatched by their superiors. From the postmortems of other terrorist attacks, we have learnt that the men on the ground have very little knowledge of the actual event until just prior to zero hour.
I am not a terrorist, nor am I an expert on terrorism, I'm not even Muslim, but from what little I understand of the mindset of Islamic terrorists I was of the view that they considered nothing sacred in front of Allah and the Holy Quran, forget philandering infidels who play cricket and SMS young blonde bimbos. Accordingly, if a prospective Jihad-ist rebels against eminent plans crafted by the organisation's hierarchy, wouldn't be be summarily dismissed from the group - via a bullet through the head, one would assume?
Ricky Ponting and his Australian team have just landed in India for the Champions Trophy. In my opinion, the levels of security provided for visiting teams in India is second-to-none and Ponting and Cricket Australia subscribe to this theory, officially at least. It is heartening to note that the players are also kept up-to-date with such news and are free to discuss their feelings with the media.
What is interesting, though, is Ponting's admission in his book that there is a level of "inconsistency" in how the team deals with terror attacks. Apparently, in his last Ashes tour diary he wrote, "If we were in, say, Pakistan or Sri Lanka and something like this had happened, I am sure we would have been on the first plane out." This is a separate issue altogether, however, I do wonder how close London was or Mumbai will be to joining that list if a blast were to take place on the public transport system during the Champions Trophy?
Alas, I digress. These latest claims must alert everyone involved with the staging of sporting events, not just cricket, to the wide range of security risks that must be mitigated. This revelation (can it be called that, even if it may be untrue?) has surely prompted the end of recruitment practices that do not mandate background and security checks prior to an offer. No more offering jobs to young gentlemen for no other reason than that they happen to play at your local cricket club and have shown a sudden interest in cleaning changing rooms.
We can only wait for the next blast, for there probably will be more. Hope and pray that the people who have prior knowledge do the right thing, the sensible and humane thing. Until then, life must go on. As must the cricket.
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