(Reuters) - With Pakistan scratched from the itinerary and peace descending on Sri Lanka, there is a growing feeling that the spectre of terror is no longer stalking the World Cup in the subcontinent like it did 15 years ago.
In 1996, the last time the region hosted the event, Australia and New Zealand preferred forfeiting preliminary matches to playing in Colombo barely a week after a massive blast had killed 80 people in the Sri Lankan capital.
Since then, bombs have gone off claiming lives in Colombo, Karachi and Mumbai though nothing shook the cricketing fraternity more than the 2009 attack on the visiting Sri Lankan players in Lahore, killing five police and injuring six cricketers.
The Lahore incident prompted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to shift World Cup matches out of Pakistan, while Sri Lanka’s three-decade civil war ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Both augur well for the Feb. 19-April 2 World Cup, according to columnist Ashok Malik.
“In such a situation, I don’t see any extraordinary security threat to the World Cup,” Malik told Reuters.
“In today’s world, every sports event in every country faces these issues. Have no illusion, the 2012 London Olympics would be under similar threat as well. But to be fair, I don’t think there is any specific threat to the World Cup.”
“There are no matches in Pakistan and I would say Sri Lanka is at its peaceful best in 30 years because the LTTE is now virtually non-existent.”
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat shared Malik’s optimism.
“With the (peaceful) situation in Sri Lanka and the fact that we got (World Cup matches) now in three countries, I believe it will be a major success,” Lorgat said on Tuesday.
“Those are realities beyond our control. Those are not issues that we can foresee or dictate
“We’ve got, I believe, adequate security measures in place. We are now a lot more mature and have got the expertise to prepare adequately on security arrangements. So it’s not an issue that troubles me as much as it did in the past.”
Tournament Director Ratnakar Shetty also spoke positively.
“Security is not at all a concern. Now that all the governments have extended full support, everything is in place,” Shetty told Reuters.
“Most countries bring their own security advisors though it’s not mandatory. Countries like Australia, England and New Zealand bring their security advisor even during bilateral series. But there is no worry, everything is being taken care of.”