NEW DELHI // A security consultant began inspecting venues in India today to decide whether it was safe for England to return for a two-Test series following last week's militant attacks in Mumbai. Reg Dickason, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) security consultant, met police and cricket authorities in Chennai, where it has been proposed the first Test will take place from Dec 11-15. "Based on the discussions held and the clarifications given, BCCI expects no problem with the first Test being held in Chennai," the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary N Srinivasan said in a statement.
The two boards have agreed to play the Tests depending on security clearance and Dickason will travel to Mohali, the proposed second Test venue, before submitting his report to the ECB. Chennai police commissioner K Radhakrishnan held a meeting with Dickason and promised tight security for the team which he expected to arrive on Dec 8 after they have played at least one warm-up match in Abu Dhabi in preparation for their return trip to India.
"The security (at their hotel) will be taken over by the police," he told Sky Sports News in London. "They will be given an exclusive floor for their stay and wherever they go we will provide them with absolute security with escorts comprising commando teams. "I'm sure everything will go off well." The BCCI switched the Tests out of Ahmedabad and Mumbai to ease the safety fears of England players, who returned home after calling off the last two games of a one-day series following the attacks, which killed 171 people.
At least five England players, however, could pull out even if the tour went ahead, the former Test bowler Dominic Cork told the BBC. "I know of at least five or six players who are going to turn their backs on England," he said. "Those I've spoken to are traumatised. What they saw on television was 10 times worse than what was shown here." He added: "If one doesn't go, they all shouldn't go. They make a stand and say 'It's not safe for us to be there'.
"I am not sure about the captain (Kevin Pietersen)," Cork said. "I know of certain players who are going to put their families first." England have cancelled a three-day warm-up game scheduled to start on Friday in India, instead opting to make a hurried and unscheduled visit to the UAE capital as they look to regain their focus ahead of what will be one of the toughest challenges anyone in the England squad has faced.
An International Cricket Council (ICC) spokesman dismissed reports that the subcontinent could lose the 2011 World Cup due to safety fears following the raids. "It is media speculation, no basis for those comments," he told Reuters from ICC's Dubai headquarters. The one-day World Cup is due to be jointly hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in early 2011. "It is two-and-a-half years before the tournament. It is not an issue at this point in time and we look forward to a fantastic event."
Pakistan is also grappling with security worries in the wake of a spate of suicide bomb attacks. The ICC postponed September's Champions Trophy to late next year after five of the eight teams threatened a boycott. The Mumbai attacks have strained political ties between India and Pakistan, dimming hopes that India would allow its cricket team to tour across the border next month. The Pakistan board is hoping that England return to India to pave the way for their neighbours to come in January and February.
"England must tour India for the two Tests despite the carnage caused by the Mumbai attacks," Saleem Altaf, the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) chief operating officer said in Karachi. *Reuters