Oh Lordy. The shit has hit the fan. Yesterday evening the ECB revealed that Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales have decided to skip the Bangladesh tour due to security concerns. Both players’ places were under pressure so it’s not a decision they would’ve taken lightly. Hales might have expected to be dropped from the test team anyway but he’s now taken the decision out of the selectors’ hands.
A few days ago, Andrew Strauss claimed there would be no hard feelings if individuals decided to skip Bangladesh. So everyone’s just accepted Morgan and Hales’ decision, right? Wrong. There has been a mass outpouring of vitriol against them on social media, criticism from mainstream journalists (many of whom are actually going themselves) and the ECB say they’re “disappointed” with their decision.
So let’s just get this straight. The ECB claim players can make their own mind up – which implies it’s a subjective judgement and Bangladesh might not as safe as other places England tour – and then when the ODI captain and one of the test openers actually duck out (perhaps because the ECB gave mixed signals) their decision is described as “disappointing”. Hmmmm. That doesn’t sound particularly fair to me.
Eoin Morgan has been at the centre of this storm because he claimed he was spooked by his proximity to a bomb during the IPL once; therefore he has some experience of terrorism. This has enabled his critics to say “ahhhh, but you still went back the next year to claim all those rupees didn’t you!”. Others are saying that because he’s England captain he has a duty to tour … if only he had half the backbone of Alastair Cook.
Although Morgan probably would’ve done well to avoid talking about the IPL, we need to remember two things here: firstly, Morgan isn’t ducking out of the second leg of England’s winter. He’s still going to tour India (unless the ECB decide to punish him for going against the grain). Secondly, the security situation in India is different to Bangladesh. No country has pulled out of a tour of India.
In case you didn’t know, Australia have decided not to tour Bangladesh twice in recent history – they decided not to send the full international team there last year and then their U19s didn’t travel to the junior world cup just a few months ago. Morgan and Hales might wonder why the ECB say Bangladesh is safe but the ACB do not? Especially as there has been further bloodshed since the Aussies made their decision.
It’s also important to note that the foreign office advice about travelling to both countries is different. Although there’s apparently a heightened risk of terrorism in both countries, the foreign office points out that “the main focus of attacks” in India have been “Indian interests”. There is no mention of groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda plus there hasn’t been an attack of any kind in India for over a year.
The foreign office advice on Bangladesh is slightly more concerning. I quote: “crowded areas and places where westerners are known to gather may be at higher risk”. This sounds awfully like a cricket ground to me. What’s more, there has been an attack in Bangladesh as recently as July, and the foreign office says that ISIL and groups affiliated with Al Qaeda are active in the country. Read the report for yourself and then decide whether you fancy booking yourself a trip to watch England play there.
I am not, by the way, saying that Morgan and Hales are right to avoid Bangladesh. I’m not saying I would’ve made the same decision. What I’m saying is that I understand their position and I don’t think they should be criticised for making it – especially after Strauss initially said they could do so without prejudice. It’s a personal choice and a subjective judgement. They’ll have to live with the consequences of their decision so let’s leave them alone. Let’s not forget that it’s only bloody cricket. It shouldn’t be a matter of life and death.
There are plenty of good arguments on both sides of this debate. It’s a really tricky one and it’s nowhere near as black and white as a number of observers who should know better have claimed. I completely understand the argument that terrorists win if people get scared and change their plans. I also accept that nowhere on earth is 100% safe – although some places are obviously safer than others.
However, because this is such as nuanced and complex dilemma, I don’t think anyone should be condemned for interpreting the evidence differently from the majority. Who knows what pressure Morgan’s family has put him under? Who knows whether it’s Hales himself who has driven his decision? It’s hard to ignore the concerns of one’s loved ones.
I’ll leave you with one thought. If my wife and kids didn’t want me to go to Bangladesh because they were anxious I simply wouldn’t go – even if I personally believed it was safe. Why? Because some things are more important than cricket. And family is one of them.
Sure some people are going to adopt a more ballsy and robust attitude. I respect their views. But people are different and it’s these differences of opinion that make the world go round. Therefore, to dismiss Morgan and Hales as cowards, or pick holes in their decision, seems incredibly unfair. The Australians made their subjective judgement so let Morgan and Hales make theirs.