A full-strength England squad leaves for Abu Dhabi on Thursday with the cricket board giving its go ahead for the two-match Test series against India which was on the verge of being cancelled following the Mumbai terror attacks.
“After spending the last 72 hours consulting security advisers and Government agencies at the highest level, the England and Wales Cricket Board has determined that England will leave for Abu Dhabi tomorrow (Thursday) to resume their two Test tour of India,” the ECB said in a statement.
Hugh Morris, Managing Director of England Cricket has outlined the players that the tour would go ahead, subject to security recommendations being implemented in India.
“The England Test squad will therefore practice in Abu Dhabi along with nine members of the England Performance Squad and will fly on to India early next week for the two Test matches in Chennai and Mohali if the security recommendations have been implemented.
“All the players have received reports from the ECB security team and also the recommendations that Reg Dickason, the team security adviser, has insisted the Board of Control for Cricket in India put in place,” the ECB statement read.
While the team practises in Abu Dhabi, Morris will join ECB security adviser Dickason, who is currently in India, to ensure that all security requirements are fully and effectively implemented in both Test venues of Chennai and Mohali.
Morris will then fly to Abu Dhabi to confirm to the ECB and the players that the added security recommendations are in place for the tour to begin.
Though there were reports that players like Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Graeme Swann were reluctant to tour India, Morris insisted no player had been forced to join the party.
“While we have sought to reassure players that their safety is paramount we have not pressurised any player into making the trip against their will.
“Those who leave for Abu Dhabi are all anticipating travelling to India if both Sean (Morris) and I are happy that Reg Dickason’s security plans have been activated. The Board and players will be kept fully informed,” Morris said.
Sean Morris, of the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA), also claimed that the players were fully supportive of the decision.
“The PCA and ECB have worked extremely closely on this issue and the players have been fully supportive throughout. We will access the highest calibre of security advice on a regular basis so that we can provide the players with the latest accurate information.
“I have been assured by the ECB that they would never compromise the players’ safety and security. Hugh and I are travelling to India this weekend to confirm for the players that the security is of the high standard that the ECB and PCA demand,” said the PCA official.
Meanwhile, Ryan Sidebottom, who was named in England’s original 15-man tour party, has been ruled out of the series with a side strain.
Stuart Broad will miss the first Test as well, having picked up a hamstring injury in Cuttack during the fifth One-day International. He will remain in England for intensive physiotherapy and then fly out to Chennai where his fitness will be reviewed ahead of the second Test.
Test squad: Kevin Pietersen (captain), Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, Monty Panesar, Matthew Prior, Owais Shah, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann.
Performance Squad: Ravinder Bopara, Mark Davies, Robert Joseph, Amjad Khan, Sajid Mahmood, Samit Patel, Liam Plunkett, Oliver Rayner, Alan Richardson — Agencies