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Jonathan Agnew column

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in India

England captain Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen's team should think long and hard before making their decision about whether to return to India

Jonathan Agnew

It is pointless trying to predict whether England's cricketers will return to India before Christmas to play the Test series or not.

As things stand at present, I would say that it is unlikely, but there will be pressure from both the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and the ECB (England & Wales Cricket Board) for them to see it through.

I do not think the ECB had much choice but to fly the players home. It did not feel comfortable in India, watching the graphic and uncensored footage of the Mumbai attacks which was feverishly pumped out on the 24-hour news channels.

The stifling security which, through necessity, was thrown around the team hotel did not help either. It can be a comfort, but the sight of machine-gun-toting commandos offers little reassurance to a wary foreigner, and this would also add to their unease should they decide to return.

There was the question of what, realistically, the cricketers would do in India once the one-day series had been curtailed, so the flight home was the best option. But, from the board's perspective, it is also a gamble because once in the bosom of their families pre-Christmas, they might not want to go back again.

It was only last week that David Collier and Giles Clarke met up with their BCCI counterparts in Mumbai as the two sides tried to bury their differences and forge a new, healthy relationship, so the timing of this could not have been worse.

Lalit Modi, the vice-chairman of the BCCI and the man behind the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Champions League, has already demonstrated the sort of pressure England will face.

Having called off the Champions League - due to start next week - because of the Mumbai attacks, Modi then busily did the rounds, telling everyone that he expected England to return to Chennai which, with Bangalore and Mumbai, had been due to co-host his abandoned tournament.

We should not forget that Test cricket is the BCCI's biggest earner, despite the success of the IPL. My view is that England should return only if they are in the right frame of mind and only if they are given the proper opportunity to practise.

It is utterly pointless to play a Test series in any other circumstances, and particularly if only to appease the two boards. Besides, a two-Test series is not difficult to reschedule, even in these hectic times: it can be done and dusted in less than three weeks.

India captain Mahendra Dhoni summed up the mood of both camps when he said: "We are entertainers, but we should not be entertaining now."

Having said all of that, Kevin Pietersen's team should think long and hard before making their decision. If they choose to stay at home it should not be through a preference for a soft and easy option.

But, by the same token, they should not be pressurised into returning unless the team is at full strength, and the players are guaranteed proper preparation in which to refocus on what they have to do.

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see also
Pakistan concern for India series
28 Nov 08 |  Pakistan
Champions League cricket on hold
27 Nov 08 |  Cricket
Nixon says England should go home
27 Nov 08 |  Leicestershire
Indian PM vows action on attacks
27 Nov 08 |  South Asia
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
India secure win in fading light
20 Nov 08 |  England
Dismal England thrashed by India
14 Nov 08 |  England
England in India 2008
23 Nov 08 |  Cricket

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