England in India 2008-09 December 1, 2008

Mohali emerges as alternative venue

Cricinfo staff

The PCA Stadium in Mohali last hosted the second Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia in October © Getty Images

The BCCI and the ECB are engaged in "positive discussions" to ensure the two-Test series goes ahead with Mohali and Chennai now believed to have been identified as the new venues. The BCCI said last week that Chennai would replace Mumbai as the host of the second Test, following terror attacks in the city which forced England to return home without completing the tour. But it now turns out that discussions are being held on whether Chennai can host the first Test and Mohali the second.

The pre-Test practice match is also likely to be held at the venue of the first Test, scheduled to start from December 11, underscoring reports that the ECB had made this request.

"The discussions are still going on and nothing has been finalised as yet," MP Pandove, BCCI treasurer and secretary of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), which runs the Mohali venue, told Cricinfo. Pandove, however, refused to confirm the venue change.

What is certain is that Ahmedabad - the scene of serial bomb blasts three months ago - has been ruled out as the first Test venue considering its relative proximity to Mumbai.

Under the BCCI schedule, revised following the terror strikes, the first Test was to be held as originally scheduled in Ahmedabad from December 11-15, and the second Test in Chennai from December 19-23. The pre-Test practice match between England and a Board President's XI was to be held in Vadodara from December 5-7.

Chennai is now being considered for the first Test, possibly because it is seen as a venue with the least threat perception from a security point of view, and will help ease the immediate fears expressed by some of the England players on touring India. The ECB has specifically asked for a southern Indian venue for the second Test instead of Mumbai.

There were also reports that Kolkata could be an alternate venue instead of Ahmedabad, but Jagmohan Dalmiya, the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) told Cricinfo that he was yet to receive any official information from the BCCI.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of the ECB, indicated that if England failed to reach India in time for the match against Board President's XI, they might opt for a neutral venue provided the tour was still on. "We have to keep our options open, and training in Abu Dhabi is definitely an option," he said.