England in India 2008-09 December 9, 2008

Flintoff hopes security won't distract team

Cricinfo staff

A sniper takes up position at the roof of the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai © AFP

England landed in Chennai on Monday night and woke up to a wet Tuesday but allrounder Andrew Flintoff believes the real challenge will be the extra security they will receive. "The environment is going to be completely different when you talk about commandos and hotels being locked down," he told the Daily Telegraph after the squad arrived from Abu Dhabi. "That is going to be a challenge for the lads. A few of us experienced something similar here in 2002 when we had guards everywhere, but hopefully that will wear off pretty quickly."

He believed normal service would resume once the first Test got underway on Thursday. "Once you're out in the middle bowling at Sachin Tendulkar or trying to hit Harbhajan Singh around, I don't think you'll be worrying about who might be around off the ground. I think that will happen more when you're at the hotel or mooching around.

"The team have made the decision to go and play cricket in India and we want to give a good account of ourselves. These circumstances might make the team tighter and hopefully this can be reflected in the results."

According to the Joint Commissioner of Chennai Police, P Balasubramaniam, England's stay in the city will be conducted behind a security blanket of more than 5000 personnel. A squad of 300 commandos will be at the hotel and 1000 police at the outer periphery of the hotel. Heavy security will also be in place all along the route to the stadium, and 2000 police personnel will be in attendance at the venue itself.

Flintoff, along with Steve Harmison, was initially apprehensive of returning to the subcontinent to complete the tour. Apart from the series missing a competitive edge, personal safety and family concerns had also weighed on Flintoff's mind.

"That was one of the things I had to get right in my mind as well," said Flintoff. "The one thing about me is that I have to be able to try my best when I get on a cricket field. So I had to be sure I could give my all. I took time to ring family and think it over myself. It was just a case of digesting it and getting it straight in my mind. We needed to know how the tour was going to take place and, once that was presented to us, we could then decide.

"There was safety to consider and also whether it was right to be playing in India so soon after Mumbai. I can't vouch for other players but for me the IPL didn't come into it at all. Safety is far bigger than the IPL."

However, the team decision to return and the prospect of missing cricket made him rethink. "One of the reasons I decided to go was for my team-mates. We didn't want to get into the position where the team was split up. Even though we got beaten during the one-day series against India, the spirit in the camp was really good and that's something we don't want to lose. So unity has played a major part."