Thu, Dec 04, 2008 - Page 18 News List

England set to resume tour of India

‘MONSTROUS’ Former batsman Geoff Boycott criticized the England and Wales Cricket Board for ‘even thinking about’ the trip after last week’s Mumbai massacre

AFP , LONDON AND SYDNEY

Geoff Boycott has warned English cricket chiefs it would be “monstrous” to send the national team back to India in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

England’s squad returned home in the aftermath of the attacks but are expected to return next week and play two Test matches, although there are doubts about how many of the leading players will be prepared to travel.

In his column in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, Boycott said it would be “disrespectful, insensitive and immoral” to send a team back to India, regardless of what security assurances the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have received from their hosts.

The former batsman, now a leading commentator who is well known in India, added: “Given what has just happened in India, it is monstrous for the ECB even to be thinking about sending the team back out again.

“It’s all very well to say ‘We mustn’t let the terrorists win,’ but what about the grieving families who have lost loved ones.

“Sport is supposed to be enjoyable, entertaining and essentially fun. But I don’t know how any of that can be possible when India is burying more than 200 victims of terror.

“In fact, the ECB are showing a lack of moral judgment by pressing ahead with all these meetings and security inspections. The whole thing is just too raw,” he wrote.

Boycott’s intervention came as the ECB awaited a report from its security expert Reg Dickason, who is in India inspecting arrangements for Tests scheduled to take place in Chennai and Mohali.

All the signs were that the ECB would give a green light for England to return with their preparations for the start of the first Test in Chennai next Thursday, including a warm-up match in Abu Dhabi.

But it is far from certain that England will be able to send a full-strength side given that as many as six first-choice players are likely to refuse to join the trip, former player Dominic Cork said.

“I know of at least five or six players who are going to turn their backs on England,” Cork said. “Those I’ve spoken to are traumatized. What they saw on television [in India] was 10 times worse than what was shown here.”

“I am not sure about the captain [Kevin Pietersen]. I know of certain players who are going to put their families first. If one doesn’t go, they all shouldn’t go. They should make a stand and say ‘it’s not safe for us to be there,’” he said.

On Tuesday, Australia said it had withdrawn from this month’s World International Doubles Squash Championships in India.

Squash Australia’s chief Gary O’Donnell said he acted advice from officials in Australia and Chennai, where the tournament is to take place from Dec. 15 to Dec. 20.

“I have spoken to Australia’s consul-general and trade commissioner in Chennai,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “He indicates they are operating on ‘high alert,’ reinforced the gravity of the situation and [said] that several delegations planned over the next few weeks have been canceled.”

O’Donnell said the decision to quit the contest had not been taken lightly, but competitors’ safety overrode all other considerations.

“Lisa Camilleri was in Pakistan for a tournament earlier this year when a devastating attack killed many people quite close to the venue, but she opted to stay on and ended up winning the tournament,” he said. “However, the scale of the recent Mumbai attacks and the stark warning from the Australian government left us with no option but to withdraw.”

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