Monday, December 1, 2008

England to analyze security

Australian Dickason will fly to Chennai tomorrow, the proposed relocation for the first Test in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai last week which prompted a premature end to the one-day series and resulted in the England players flying home.

England were offered a revised schedule by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during a day of prolonged talks.

Top English cricket officials have also been engaged in discussions with various security agencies, both in India and the UK, as well as digesting the advice of their own man Dickason.

The BCCI have now proposed that the first Test, which was scheduled for Ahmedabad between December 11-15, will be moved to Chennai, while Mohali will host the second from December 19-23.

The two-match series was originally beginning in Ahmedabad and concluding in Mumbai.

The second venue was initially changed to Chennai but there has been another shift to ease safety fears.

Ahmedabad was the scene of numerous bomb blasts earlier this year and is relatively close to Mumbai.

Significantly, Australia recently played a Test in Mohali, just outside Chandigarh, this autumn and England's security advisor, Dickason's company, also provides advice for the Aussies, so plans and procedures will be at hand.

England have played matches in Mohali on each of their previous two Test tours, losing both, their only defeats in six outings.

Chennai was due to be hosting Champions League matches this week, so security arrangements were already in place.

Even if the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) agree to resume the trip to the subcontinent it does not necessarily mean the same 15 players will return and national selector Geoff Miller today admitted no-one should agree to resume their tour of India if they "have a sense of fear".

Miller spent the day liaising with officials from the ECB.

England's one-day squad returned on Saturday with the final two one-day internationals being scrapped in response to the attacks on several Mumbai landmarks, including the Taj Mahal Palace hotel where the team had been based at the start of the tour.

Since their return there has been speculation about whether both Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison would return.

Asked if he would go if he was still a player, former Derbyshire off-spinner Miller said: "Yes, I think I would go if I got clearance on security.

"From an England point of view representing your country is very, very big so if you've got a clearance from security of being looked after then yes, I would.

"But the focus is on playing cricket so you've got to make sure you are fully focused on that job and not being sidetracked by other issues, and that's pretty difficult. I fully understand that.

"If there's a sense of fear then you can't be fully focused on the job you are trying to do. These are difficult circumstances, difficult times, and you've got to have a very strong character to be able to do that."

The players have already been briefed by Dickason, before their departure from Bhubaneswar and his observations will now be key to whether they return.

"The players had their meeting in India and discussed things, although there was very little they could discuss while waiting to see what Reg and the security people said," added Miller.

"Now they will make their own personal decisions and once they have all done that we will reassess it, but we have to reassess it quickly because the turnaround is rapid.

"We've got two big Tests to play against one of the best teams in the world. It's not only about playing those games, it's also about the build-up to them - the preparation.

"Obviously we've been knocked back as far as that is concerned, so that's difficult in itself. So yes, the turnaround is as quick as possible because we've got to get some pre-match work done."

The Professional Cricketers' Association were been involved in today's meetings and those in charge of decision-making within English cricket want to be satisfied that any proposed security arrangements are adequate.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office were consulted by the ECB this morning but any decision on whether to travel will be down to the assessment of those at Lord's.

Current FCO website advice to British citizens - as of this afternoon - is to avoid all but essential travel to Mumbai and to 'take care to be extra vigilant in their movements' elsewhere in India.

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