England in India 2008-09 December 7, 2008

England will tour with full squad

Cricinfo staff


Andrew Flintoff will tour India for the Test series as a full-strength squad travels to Chennai © Getty Images
 
England will tour India for their two-Test series with a full-strength squad after an evening of meetings in Abu Dhabi finally gave the trip the go-ahead. For the time being, however, Mohali remains in doubt as the venue for the second Test, although ECB officials will visit the stadium in the coming week.

Hugh and Sean Morris, the managing director of England cricket and chief executive of the England players' association respectively, along with security advisor Reg Dickason, briefed the whole squad for around two hours after flying in from Chennai on Sunday evening, and the decision to tour was announced shortly before 11pm local time.

"This is a very brave and courageous decision that will be respected around the world," Hugh Morris said during a press conference at the team hotel. "We've had a lot of discussions with the players following a number of security information audits we've had from the very highest levels of government and our own security team.

"It has been a very difficult situation, a very emotional, sensitive time for everybody and it has been hard for the players to come to this decision but they all have, and we are looking forward to the challenge of playing India."

The first Test in Chennai will start on December 11 with the second scheduled to start on December 19, although the venue for the second Test is still to be confirmed with Dickason and Hugh Morris due to inspect the Mohali ground once England arrive in India. Bangalore and Delhi are in line as alternatives, and both would allow an easier passage home for the squad.

"It's purely a time-frame thing. Once the players are in Chennai the security guys will be doing all of the checks [in Mohali]." Sean Morris told Sky Sports News. "There are a couple of small details we need to sort out. Then hopefully it will go ahead."

The squad will fly out in two batches, one from Abu Dhabi and one from Dubai, on Monday and have just two full days to prepare for the series.

The BCCI are confident that they have met all the ECB's requirements for extra security, which will be at unprecedented levels during the two Tests. Ever since the squad arrived in Abu Dhabi for their training camp, the feeling was that the tour would go ahead.

However, up until the last minute rumours persisted that there could be some opt-outs among senior players with Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison heading the list. On Saturday evening coach Peter Moores admitted they both had worries, but said neither would be singled out if they didn't travel.

"We took players through security advice and now they are looking forward to getting down and playing cricket now," Sean Morris said. "My role was to make sure they have the accurate information. They asked some great questions and it was great to see the room come together. I spoke to every player over the last few days. They had a lot of questions and needed them all answered."

That the full squad will board a flight to Chennai is a major boost for England and a feather in the cap for both Hugh Morris and Kevin Pietersen. In his Sunday newspaper column, Harmison admitted to having concerns but those appear to have been allayed after hearing the reports from Dickason.

"Whatever we hear at our security briefing tonight in Abu Dhabi, I reserve the right to make my own decision to fly home on Monday if it is the right thing to do," he said in the Mail on Sunday. "On the one shoulder a voice has been telling me: 'Stuff the terrorists. Get in there, play the Test and give it your best shot'.

"Then the man on my other shoulder pipes up: 'Think about this. You are going into a country some are describing as a war zone. You've got a family and four kids. Is it right to put yourself at risk?'."

Sean Morris added that throughout the whole process Harmison had acted like a senior figure. "I spoke to Steve, he's a senior player," Morris said. "He has been fantastic and it is a tough call with a young family. Ultimately he's representing his country and hats off to him."

As some senior players considered their position until the final moment, emotions will have been different for younger members of the squad hoping to make a name for themselves. Two new faces were added the squad earlier on Sunday, with Kent's Amjad Khan replacing the injured Ryan Sidebottom and Yorkshire legspinner Adil Rashid being taken along for experience of touring.

Squad Kevin Pietersen (capt), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior, Tim Ambrose, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Amjad Khan, Steve Harmison, James Anderson, Monty Panesar. (Adil Rashid also travelling)

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