MANCHESTER: India captain Virat Kohli insisted Thursday he had no qualms about being in England for the upcoming Champions Trophy tournament following the deadly Manchester terror attack.
A suicide bomb that exploded shortly after the end of a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena in the northwest English city on Monday killed 22 people and injured dozens more.
The Champions Trophy, which is being staged in London, Birmingham and Cardiff starts next Thursday with a match between England and Bangladesh at The Oval in south London.
India are the defending champions, having won the 2013 edition that was also staged in Britain.
They begin the defence of their title with a match against arch-rivals Pakistan in Birmingham on June 4 in what is arguably the most high-profile match of the entire tournament.
Following Monday’s attack, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), contacted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to raise “concerns” about team security.
But a defiant Kohli, speaking in London on Thursday, said: “For a few people it can be a nervous time, but as a squad you don’t have time to focus on those factors.
“You’re here for a sporting tournament, and that remains paramount.”
The star batsman added: “I don’t feel any nervousness; I saw life resume pretty normally, and that’s always a healthy sign. That’s very reassuring.
“I’m sure the whole squad feels that way and I’m not at all nervous about being in England — and I’m excited to play the tournament.
“What happened here was really saddening and very disturbing for everyone, especially in a place like England, (which) has not had many of these incidents in the past.”
Sri Lanka have first-hand experience of being caught in a terror incident, with the armed attack on their team bus in Lahore in 2009 effectively leading to the ongoing suspension of all top-flight international cricket in Pakistan, while Sri Lanka itself endured decades of civil war.
Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, said he had been re-assured by what he had been told regarding security arrangements.
‘Know how bad it is’
“The manager has briefed us, the security personnel have briefed us — we don’t have to really worry about what’s going on,” Mathews said.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the incident in Manchester. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. It’s obviously horrifying; we had to go through 30 years of (civil) war and know how bad it is.”
His comments were endorsed by New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson.
“The tragedy in Manchester was horrific and our thoughts are with those people,” he said.
Earlier, BCCI acting president CK Khanna confirmed to AFP in Delhi that security official Neeraj Kumar, had left for England on Tuesday.
“We sent out a message (to ICC) raising our concerns about security of the Indian team’s travel, accommodation and the playing (area),” BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary told reporters.
In London, ICC anti-corruption unit chairman Ronnie Flanagan warned fans attending Champions Trophy matches to prepare for additional security measures, while vowing the tournament would go ahead as scheduled.
“I’ve every confidence we cannot yield in any way to terrorists’ intentions and would ask the public to be vigilant but come to our matches secure in the knowledge they will be safe, but expecting some additional inconvenience, pat-downs, searches,” said Flanagan.
“We will make this a safe, secure tournament. Don’t let the terrorists have their way,” added Flanagan, a former senior British police officer.
“Sport can be a wonderfully positive influence in the face of adversity and terrorism.” – AFP