England cricket divided over India Test series

November 29th, 2008 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 29 (IANS) Mumbai terror attacks have divided the England cricket fraternity on whether the national team should return to India for the two-Test series next month. Even as both the English and the Indian cricket board decided to go ahead with the Test series after cutting short the seven-match ODI series, the cricketers are reluctant to come back to India.

Former Test captains like Bob Willis and David Gower felt that the series must continue while former England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief Ian Charter MacLaurin said that security dangers are too obvious for the England team to return to India for the Test series.

Willis said unless the team returned, there was a risk that other countries may refuse to come to England in future.

“If the country is deemed safe before the first Test in Ahmedabad on December 11 and the second in Chennai, they should go and play. Otherwise no one will come to England - teams will say we are as much a terrorist target as any country. I hope that within a fortnight, things will be settled down,” Willis was quoted as saying by the London Times.

“The England players stayed on in 1984-85 when Mrs. Gandhi and Percy Norris, the deputy British High Commissioner, were assassinated, but I can understand the reluctance of any cricketer to go into areas where there have been terrorist attacks. As Westerners are being targeted, it is sensible for the team to leave,” he added.

But MacLaurin said it was absolutely the right decision for them to come home.

“The England cricket team are very high-profile individuals. If these fanatics are going to target people then the England players could be a very big target for them,” MacLaurin was quoted as saying by the The Daily Telegraph.

“My own view is that I would be very, very surprised if the security people will give them the OK to go back. For myself, I don’t think they should go back. I think it is sad for cricket, but the safety of our players is absolutely paramount. I am sure that the ECB will take the same view,” he added.

Gower, who led England on the 1984-85 tour, recalled that during that tour also they thought of coming back after Norris was killed

“We talked about coming home when Percy Norris was killed - we had had drinks with him only the night before. But we knew security would be tight enough. I would almost suggest that if they went back to Bombay, they would be fine. India will provide full security, even though they will find it hard to get this out of their minds,” Gower said.

MacLaurin’s views were also also reiterated Vikram Solanki, the Worcestershire captain, who was born in India and has played both for Rajasthan’s state team and Mumbai Champs in the Indian Cricket League.

“There have been terror attacks on England in the past, and cricket matches have still been played soon afterwards. That begs the question of whether a precedent has been set. I am sure the players and the ECB will take good advice from the Foreign Office as to how safe the players will be,” Solanki said.

Derek Underwood, the former England spin bowler, who is now president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), said that there will be serious repercussions if England abandons the series.

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