October 22, 2001

ECB seeks to reassure players about Indian tour safety

The prospects for England's tour to India in November are not as bleak as a number of scare stories appearing in the press over the weekend might portray. There is a meeting between the selected players and the ECB at Lord's tomorrow (Tuesday) but it is not a crisis meeting. The purpose is to allow an exchange of information and to enable the players and their representatives to hear the very latest on the security situation from the British High Commissioner in New Delhi, Sir Rob Young.

A number of players have expressed concerns about the safety of the touring party, especially in light of advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that reads: "We are advising all British interests in India to take precautions against possible terrorist retaliation. All British nationals are strongly advised to keep a low profile, maintain a high level of vigilance, avoid situations where there might be tension and stay in touch with fast moving events." The fact that the same advice is offered to such notorious trouble spots as New Zealand and Switzerland does put that statement in to perspective!

To make a better evaluation of the situation, chief executive of the ECB, Tim Lamb, and director of corporate affairs, John Read, went to the FCO on Friday where officials made it very clear that they saw no reason why the tour should not proceed. They received some specific advice about the situation in India at the present time as it will affect the English cricket team. That was supportive.

Looking ahead to the briefing with the players, John Read told CricInfo: " This meeting is all about reassuring the players that the decision to proceed with the tour has been based on a lot of thought, discussion and research about the situation in India and the very decisive advice from the High Commission in Delhi. We are getting direct advice from the people on the ground who really know what the situation is."

Sir Rob Young, the High Commissioner in Delhi, has agreed to interrupt a very hectic programme to go to Lord's to address the players personally and allay any fears they might have. Read added: "Hopefully, at the end of the meeting, the players will be more assured about the situation in India and, as far as the Foreign Office is concerned, why they are giving advice that the tour should go ahead."

While the ECB admits that it is unable to force anybody to get on the plane if they do not want to go, they are hopeful that by providing hard evidence from an authoritative source, individuals will make up their own minds that it is safe to go.

Read added: "We cannot ever say there are no risks associated with going to India or anywhere else for that matter because no tour is absolutely risk-free. But we are trying to put the situation into perspective so they can have an informed and balanced understanding of the situation that prevails in India at the moment."

He stressed "Players' safety and the safety of the whole touring party remains paramount. There is no way we would send a team into an area where there are serious security concerns."

Read refused to get drawn into comment on an admittedly hypothetical situation whereby individuals decided against going. Chelsea Football Club recently left the decision about travelling to Israel for a European tie to individuals and six senior players opted out. All he would say is "We want to send our strongest possible team to India. We have announced our party and we hope that every single one of those players will go."

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach who only left the country to visit South Africa last week, has returned to London for the meeting. Also there will be cricket manager Phil Neale, John Carr, the director of cricket operations, along with chairman of the ECB, Lord MacLaurin, and Tim Lamb. As well as all the players, Richard Bevan from the Professional Cricketers' Association has been invited, as had David Graveney in his dual role as chief executive of the PCA and chairman of selectors. With Sir Rob Young will be the senior official responsible for South-East Asia at the FCO, Kevin Brind.