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Page last updated at 20:55 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

England to return home from India

Report - Test series to go ahead

England will return home following the terror attacks in Mumbai but their Test series against India will go ahead.

The first Test is set to start on 11 December in Ahmedabad and the second, scheduled for Mumbai from 19 December, will take place at an alternate venue.

Hugh Morris, England and Wales Cricket Board performance director, said: "We want to get back to a home environment.

"It will be good for all the players. They were only in one of the hotels attacked a few weeks ago."

The England squad are currently in Bhubaneswar, which is 850 miles from Mumbai, but they stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai a fortnight ago and were due to return there on 16 December.

England's remaining fixtures in India
England's remaining fixtures in India

"It's been an awful tragedy that this has happened in Mumbai and the players have felt very close to it because they have been in the hotel and in the rooms and the restaurant only a couple of weeks ago," said Morris.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were keen for the tourists to remain in the country and complete the remainder of their seven-week tour despite the terrorist incidents, which killed at least 110 people and have injured another 300.

They wanted England to fulfil their three-day warm-up match in Baroda, which begins on 5 December, followed by the two-Test series starting in Ahmedabad, although the final Test scheduled for Mumbai will be moved.

With delicate discussions still on-going about the release of England players for the Indian Premier League and the reciprocal arrangement with India's leading stars and their availability for the English Premier League in 2010, it would have been understandable if they had stayed to placate the BCCI.

Hugh Morris says the majority of players wanted to go home

But after a day of intensive discussions between England, the BCCI, the players and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) back in London, they decided to fly home with a view to returning for the Test series providing security assurances are in place.

Morris revealed that the "majority" of players felt they would benefit from going home.

"The thoughts of the players and everybody at the ECB are very much with the victims of the tragedy," he said.

"To spend a few days at home in familiar surroundings with their family will do the players a lot of good."

As for the Test matches, Morris said the team would look forward to returning, as long as their safety and security could be guaranteed.

"This will be a different build-up to the one we usually have for a Test series, but we are in exceptional times and exceptional circumstances," he added.

"Clearly where England go to play cricket we have security advice, we act on that security advice and if that says it is safe and secure for players and management to go that is what we will do.

England captain Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen's team had lost five out of the five one-dayers so far

"This is a tragic event and the players feel desperately sorry for all that are caught up in the events in Mumbai. They're very disturbed by it, as we all are."

England's decision to return home has gained support from India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"We are entertainers but we should not be entertaining at a time like this," he said.

"I was up all night watching the pictures on television apart from one hour and it was a big shock. Normally they have intelligence about these sort of things but this was a total surprise."

Lalit Modi, vice president of the Indian board, insists the Tests will go ahead, although the second will be moved to a new venue.

He insisted "the safety of the players is not an issue" and said ECB chairman Giles Clarke was "very happy" with the arrangements made for the Test series.

Modi said he hoped to make an announcement later on Thursday about a new venue for the second Test.

"We are working on this as we speak," he said. "We are looking at somewhere in the south of India, because of the weather conditions."

England had lost all five of the one-day matches played so far.

As for the remaining two matches of the series - originally scheduled to be played on Saturday in Guwahati and next Tuesday in Delhi, but now postponed - Modi said he still hoped that series could be completed.

The inaugural Champions League, which was due to start on Wednesday and includes Middlesex, has also been postponed.

Modi, who is also head of the Indian Premier League and the Champions League, said work was under way to reschedule that tournament as well.

The England squad will fly to Bangalore on Friday to link up with the Performance Programme Squad, which was scheduled to play a match in Mumbai on 11 December, before heading to London.

Cricket on the Indian sub-continent has been blighted by security scares for the past 20 years.

New Zealand have abandoned two tours of Sri Lanka and one of Pakistan after bomb blasts. Australia and West Indies refused to play their Sri Lanka group matches at the 1996 World Cup following an explosion in Colombo.

This year the International Cricket Council postponed the Champions League one-day tournament scheduled in Pakistan for the first time after five countries, including England, said they would not take part because of security fears.

Meanwhile, the decision to switch the second Test from Mumbai to another venue has thrown the plans of around 500 England fans into disarray.

Paul Winslow, spokesman of the unofficial England supporters' group, the Barmy Army, said he had been besieged by calls from worried members asking for advice about travelling to India.

As soon as someone says we can all go to India to watch cricket then that's what we'll do

Paul Winslow
Barmy Army spokesman

"We would expect around 500 England fans to be going to Mumbai," said Winslow.

"I have one friend who has paid for his hotel in Mumbai already and he might not be able to get his money back. He will obviously have to pay for flights to somewhere else if it is rescheduled wherever that may be, which is obviously not ideal."

He said he would be in touch with the ECB and Foreign and Commonwealth Office before advising Barmy Army members on what to do, and insisted fans would make the trip, provided they are assured of their safety.

"As soon as someone says we can all go to India to watch cricket then that's what we'll do," he said.

"These guys are passionate, they are going to India to watch cricket just before Christmas.

"That's no small undertaking and people don't want to miss out on that opportunity. But everybody wants to know that they are safe and if people can work that out then we'll go."

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see also
Dozens released from Mumbai hotel
28 Nov 08 |  South Asia
Champions League cricket on hold
27 Nov 08 |  Cricket
Nixon says England should go home
27 Nov 08 |  Leicestershire
As it happened: Mumbai attacks 27 Nov
27 Nov 08 |  South Asia
Mumbai rocked by deadly attacks
27 Nov 08 |  South Asia
India win despite Pietersen ton
26 Nov 08 |  England
England in India 2008
23 Nov 08 |  Cricket

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