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Page last updated at 19:43 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Abu Dhabi offers welcome distraction

By Joe Wilson
BBC Sport, Abu Dhabi


Report - England prepare in Abu Dhabi

There is solace in returning to the certainty of a training session. A relief in routine.

After days of pondering matters beyond their control, England's players at their Abu Dhabi training camp got back to the three things they are paid to do - bowling, batting and fielding.

Paul Collingwood accepts the only way they can approach their time here is to assume they will be flying to Chennai to resume their interrupted tour of India on Monday.

"Sunday is D-day, when we get the full security reports, and really, from a cricketing perspective, we have to be mentally right for starting on Thursday," said Collingwood.

That first Test in Chennai, which starts on 11 December, is so near, and yet still so far away.

Collingwood repeated the sentiment here that it would be an awful shame if the series did not go ahead, though stressing each player still has the opportunity not to go to India.

Yet if Hugh Morris, managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association report to the players here on Sunday that it is simply not safe, then we will be flying six hours back to England rather than three hours to Chennai.

While they wait, Abu Dhabi is not a bad place to spend a few days for a cricketer.

It is the brand leader in neutral cricket venues. And it may well be an expanding market.

Dilwar Mani, the charming chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Club, told me it was "50-50" India and Pakistan would play Test matches at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium early next year.

Having trained as an accountant in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s, the Abu Dhabi Cricket Club CEO is reliable when it comes to figures.

For nearly 30 years he has been promoting the cause of cricket in Abu Dhabi.

The game here is still often played on concrete wickets with sand outfields. Incredible. I have rarely fancied a bowl more.

Entertaining England is an opportunity for Abu Dhabi to show off its ground, and if England decide not to travel to India, then Mani would welcome them to play those Test matches here.

But only if India's governing body - the BCCI - invited Abu Dhabi to effectively take over as hosts.

And this is a big point.

The enthusiasm for cricket in Abu Dhabi stems from the extensive expat Indian and Pakistani communities here.

They were the sand cricketers outside the stadium and they whispered to me their fear that cricket in those countries would ''be finished'' if other nations felt unable to travel there.

But as England's players revert to some sort of routine in Abu Dhabi its surely unfeasible and unfair to expect them to shoulder the burden of preventing international cricket becoming a neutral sport.

We will know on Sunday.

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see also
Back in the nets
05 Dec 08 |  England
England set to resume India tour
03 Dec 08 |  England
England in India 2008
01 Dec 08 |  Cricket

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