The England captain Kevin Pietersen is confident his side will tour India after their stay in Abu Dhabi, despite fresh security concerns.
England's show of support
ABU DHABI // The England cricket captain Kevin Pietersen is confident that his side will tour India after their stay in Abu Dhabi, despite fresh security concerns following the attacks on Mumbai. Indian airports have been put on high alert of a terrorist attack, casting more doubt over England's two-Test series, but Pietersen and England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Hugh Morris refused to panic before they departed for the UAE.
The team are due to net at the capital's Zayed Stadium today and are set to play a full-scale match on Sunday. Pietersen has urged a show of solidarity and to support the Indian people at a time of crisis, although there was a note of caution, with both men claiming that preparing in Abu Dhabi until Sunday "buys them some time". "We'll assess the situation on Sunday night but I'm very confident we'll have 15 lads who are going to play a Test match next week," said Pietersen.
"We can buy ourselves some time in Abu Dhabi and I think it's fantastic we've got a bunch of players who went to India initially and now want to go back there. "It's very important that we go and rub shoulder to shoulder with the Indian people in their time of need and show our support by going back there to hopefully play some Test cricket." In the meantime, the ECB will continue to implement security plans in Chennai and will report back to Morris over the weekend, when a final decision will be made.
"If there are any major catastrophes or alarm bells ringing I think Hugh will be ringing the board to say the collective decision would be to come home," Pietersen continued. "But at the moment we're very focused on going to Abu Dhabi and to start a Test match on Thursday. "The guys just want to get out there and play cricket. That's what we love doing and it's a huge stance by this England team to jump on a plane and go and do the business."
Pietersen stressed that no player had to be "persuaded" to go to India, particularly Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison, who both have young families and were initially thought to be against the tour. "I think everybody's become a lot more open-minded as to their decisions," he said. "They've come home and spoken to their families which has been very, very important. "I didn't persuade anybody. I respect everybody's individual concerns. They are men and make decisions for themselves. Nobody was told or persuaded what to do.
"I think they (Flintoff and Harmison) have become a lot more open-minded in the last couple of days. They are two big players and we certainly want them in our team. "I just feel really proud to be captain of such a great bunch of guys who want to play for their country." Asked what would happen if the security results were positive but one player still did not want to go, Morris replied: "One thing we don't want to do is twist someone's arm up their back.
"Over the next couple of days we'll be collecting absolutely up to date information and presenting that to the players. "I would like to think if our security team came back and said it was safe and secure, we would all go over there. "If the situation isn't safe and secure, I'll be making a call to the board." Dilawar Mani, president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, which is hosting the tour party, said: "It is a great honour for Abu Dhabi to be able to do this.
"We aim to make their stay here as enjoyable and safe as it could possibly be and hope that they enjoy our excellent facilities here." India's middle order batsman Yuvraj Singh has been rewarded for his rich form in the aborted one-day series with England with a recall for the Tests. The left-hander hit successive match-winning hundreds in the first two games of last month's one-day series, which India clinched 5-0.
Yuvraj, overlooked for the home test series against Australia which India won 2-0 last month, made his last Test appearance in April, in the third and final match against South Africa in Kanpur. The attacking batsman, who hit 138 not out and 118 at the start of the England one-day series, is a strong contender for the middle-order slot vacated by former skipper Saurav Ganguly, who retired after the Australia series.
The selectors dropped left-arm paceman Rudra Pratap Singh owing to poor form and included left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. The 22-year-old, who has played five one-day internationals, will be the back up for off spinner Harbhajan Singh and leg spinner Amit Mishra. Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Subramaniam Badrinath, Munaf Patel, Murali Vijay, Pragyan Ojha.