South Africa justify decision to pull out

Published: Saturday, August 19, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: The South African cricket team arrived back in Johannesburg saying they felt the decision to abort their tour of Sri Lanka was fully justified after a bomb blast close to the hotel they were staying in.

Seven people were killed on Monday when a bomb exploded in the Liberty Plaza shopping mall, 600 metres from the team's Colombo hotel and often frequented by the players.

''The criticism was upsetting and a tough pill to swallow,'' Mark Boucher, who captained the team in the absence of the injured Graeme Smith, said.

''The series would have been a good opportunity for the younger players to have a go at winning selection for the World Cup. But, as a team, we always believe in all-for-one and one-for-all.

''We could not even leave the hotel to practise and, personally, I like to get out and experience what touring is all about,'' Boucher said.

Coach Mickey Arthur said the South Africans had been eagerly anticipating the limited-overs triangular series, that also featured India, after losing the Test series 2-0 to Sri Lanka.

''From a cricketing point of view, abandoning the tour was a disaster and we are all very disappointed that it had to happen,'' he said.

''The guys were really amped for the one-day series and we were looking forward to it. It would have been a great opportunity for the younger players.'' The coach added that South Africa's decision to leave had been supported by many Sri Lankans.

''There was a noticeable change in the climate in Colombo and the locals became a lot more uneasy. There was a lot of sympathy for us and many people said we'd made the right decision.

''We can understand the disappointment of the cricketing people, though, and it is important to try and reschedule the matches,'' Arthur said.

Cricket South Africa's corporate communications manager, Steve Elworthy, said South Africa would play two One-day Internationals against Zimbabwe and may also travel to Abu Dhabi to play in a series against Pakistan and possibly Australia

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