Anger as Caddick and Croft refuse to tour India

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The Independent Online

The decision by Andrew Caddick and Robert Croft not to tour India may have put their families' minds at rest, but it has not gone down well with some of those making the trip. Although the captain, Nasser Hussain, must be relieved that three of the five ditherers – Marcus Trescothick, Craig White and Ashley Giles – have made themselves available, there is disquiet among his team that the pair staying at home will walk straight back in for the New Zealand leg of the tour next February.

The grouse is typical of English cricket, though it is not without logic. Touring India is arguably the toughest of all overseas tours and with the tensions in the region, not without risk. Touring New Zealand, at least off the pitch, is a doddle in comparison, a trip most cricketers seem to enjoy rather than endure.

Cherry-picking one tour over the other, something both Darren Gough and Alec Stewart tried to do at the end of the season, was never an option, especially if team harmony was to prevail. As a result, both were given an all-or-nothing ultimatum over the Test series, something that Caddick and Croft could circumvent.

Caddick's absence, following Gough's non-availability, leaves England without an exper-ienced new ball bowler. Although replacements are due to be announced later this week – either Chris Silverwood or Richard Johnson for Caddick, and one of Jeremy Snape or Graeme Swann for Croft – neither of the refuseniks should be guaranteed a place for the New Zealand leg.

To that end, the lead from the top has been ambiguous. Yesterday, John Carr, the cricket operations manager for the England and Wales Cricket Board, said that the team for New Zealand would be selected on merit. But if that suggests Caddick and Croft – both originally picked for India – would go, it contradicts the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, who recently said that it would be "morally wrong to drop any replacement who'd done well."

The decision to sit by the hearth cannot have been an easy one for the duo to make, hence the extra time requested, a factor Trescothick reckoned was crucial in allowing him to be in the right frame of mind to make his choice.

In team sport, as in many legal matters, possession is of paramount importance and neither player will have given up his place lightly. But if such a dilemma might partially explain the hand-wringing of Croft and Caddick, it is surely the main reason behind the others' decision to travel.

"It has been a universally difficult decision to make," said Croft, whose status as a fringe player means he has most to lose. "But after further discussions with friends and family, I could not guarantee my full commitment to the England team knowing that my family would worry about my safety."

Caddick, whose wife gave birth to their second son on 12 October, was equally heartfelt. "Turning down an opportunity to represent my country is something I never would have believed possible. I needed to be 100 per cent confident that my family were happy for me to tour. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For them, I've made the very personal decision not to tour India."

Although the famous American novelist, Don DeLillo, once wrote that the family was the cradle of the world's misinformation, few outside the team will blame the pair for putting their wives and children first. Within the side, though, feelings may be less generous, especially when the travel arrangements, which can be trying and claustrophobic under normal circumstances in India, begin to go awry.

The pair's decision not to go means that 14 of the original 16-man squad remain, a decent proportion after the conflicting messages of the past few weeks, some of which came from within the ECB. Yet with three players – Craig White, Ashley Giles and James Ormond – all undergoing fitness tests a week today, that ratio may be further eroded. Only last week Giles, whose Achilles tendon was operated on in August, could barely break into a trot.

The status of the tour is not quite all systems go until all bags are on the plane. The ECB has stated that any player can still opt out should they feel the situation has worsened, or that security measures are not sufficient, a point Carr is due to look into when he visits India over the next few days.

Apart from all the usual soothing assurances already given by Jagmohan Dalmiya, the president of India's cricket board, Carr will be made aware of the stringent new laws passed by the Indian parliament after the 11 September atrocities. According to sources inside India, the new laws mean Muslims can barely shout in public without being arrested.

Indeed, the shooting of seven people 150 miles from Bombay last weekend, is thought to have happened after a peaceful demonstration was stopped using the new powers. This may be an exaggeration, but the last thing a jittery England side wants, is to be chaperoned by trigger-happy cops.

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