England prepared to face threat

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen yesterday admitted that it was the desire to provide support for the people of India that motivated his side to travel to Abu Dhabi, a move that raises the chances of England completing their scheduled two-Test tour of the country.

The England team are awaiting in-depth and up-to-date safety and security reports from India before confirming they will fly to Chennai, the venue of the first Test, and their mood would not have been helped by yesterday's news.

As Pietersen's side left for the Middle East it would have been made aware that three major Indian airports had been put on high alert following a email reported to have been sent from the same terrorist group that undertook last week's attacks in Mumbai. The group are alleged to have threatened to attack the air transport system in India, a predicament that caused security to be tightened at airports in Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore.

"By going back we will demonstrate in India what we want to and show our support," said Pietersen at a hotel near Heathrow Airport. "The boys are very open-minded now and want to go back to play some Test match cricket."

"I think the return home has made us a lot more open-minded about the decisions we have to make and what we want to do. We were allowed to come home and discuss it with family members, which has been very important. It has made us realise that it would be huge for us to go back to India and rub shoulder to shoulder with the Indian people in their time of need.

"Reg [Dickason, the England and Wales Cricket Board's security advisor] is out there at the moment and we will assess the situation on Sunday, but I am very confident we will get 15 lads who will go and play the Test next week. I am very confident that if everything goes according to plan over the next couple of days we will have a full squad to pick from next Wednesday.

"It's a collective thing. I think the guys that go today are just waiting for Reg's reports and if there are any alarm bells ringing then I think the collective decision will be to come home. But as it stands at the moment the boys are very focused about playing some red ball cricket in Abu Dhabi and Test match cricket on Thursday."

Pietersen has so far cut an impressive figure during the ordeal. The England captain has spoken confidently and decisively, and insisted he had not pressured anyone to get on the plane.

"I didn't persuade anybody," he said. "I respect everybody's individual concerns. I respect all their decisions and everything they are having to go through. At the end of the day they are men and they make decisions for themselves. Nobody has been told or persuaded what to do. We are fortunate to have a great bunch of lads who want to jump on a plane to Abu Dhabi."

India announced their squad for the two-Test series yesterday and have included the explosive middle order batsman Yuvraj Singh, who made merry in the one-day series, to replace the recently retired Sourav Ganguly. They have also included the young spinner Pragyan Ojha.

India squad (for two-Test series against England): M S Dhoni (capt), V Sehwag, G Gambhir, R S Dravid, S R Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Y Singh, A Mishra, Zaheer Khan, I Sharma, H Singh, S Badrinath, M Patel, M Vijay, P P Ojha.