Team unity swayed Flintoff

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Andrew Flintoff today admitted his loyalty to the England team had been a major factor in him opting to return to India.

Talismanic all-rounder Flintoff was one of five players who were wavering prior to the final security briefing last night.



However, the entire squad committed to resuming the tour and the party flew in two groups to Chennai today, ahead of Thursday's opening Test of a two-match series.



It was not only safety and security fears which filled the players' minds. Questions were also raised over how appropriate it was to return to the subcontinent so soon after the Mumbai terrorist attacks and whether the umbrella security placed over the tourists will create too alien an environment for a sports team to be successful.



But at 10.50pm last night here, it was announced that a collective commitment to resume the tour had been reached - and Flintoff, 31, said: "That was probably the big one (issue).



"We didn't want to get into a position where the team was split up.



"One of the reasons I decided to go was for my team-mates. Throughout the one-day series in India, although we lost the spirit in the camp was really good and that is something we didn't want to lose."



Security advisor Reg Dickason returned a positive report on the framework in place in the southern Indian city - he is yet to carry out a similar check on second Test venue Mohali and will do so in the next 72 hours - which meant the England and Wales Cricket Board were committed to sending a side back.



Flintoff and close friend Steve Harmison expressed their reservations openly throughout the three-day training camp in the United Arab Emirates, however.



"We have had our concerns as have everyone else," Flintoff admitted. "But the one thing I wanted to do was get all the information I could and make an informed decision.



"I could not have done that until last night when we heard the security report and how that is going to take place.



"It has been a hard week, chatting to the lads, chatting to the family.



"It wasn't just about security - it was a bit of everything.



"Obviously security concerns are what most people had. But is it the right time to be playing cricket? And the environment in which you will be playing in comes into it.



"There are a few things to consider but we obviously have full confidence in Reg and we decided to go and play the two Tests."



Professional Cricketers' Association chief executive Sean Morris praised Flintoff and Harmison for challenging their findings from Chennai following the security update.



But others also contributed to the debate on whether to recommence the seven-week trip which was temporarily aborted nine days ago.



"It was a decision which players had to come to on their own without trying to be influenced by other people," Flintoff added.



"The younger element of our team are very strong characters.



"They made their minds up, everyone voiced what they thought, their concerns and the plus points.



"Afterwards we went away to have a think about it."



It was during that 45-minute period that the five who still remained undecided confirmed they would travel.



Now they head into unchartered territory of focusing for a Test match flanked by top-level protection, having already missed out on a single practice match and warmed up initially in a different country.



"That was one thing I had to get right in my mind as well," Flintoff - who along with Paul Collingwood toured India under blanket security in 2001-02, shortly after the September 11 attacks - added.



"The environment which we are going to be playing in will be extremely different.



"Particularly with all these commandos and armed guards looking after us. That is going to be a challenge for us in a way."



Nottinghamshire fast bowler Stuart Broad will join up with his colleagues this evening but his hamstring tear will prevent him competing for a place on Thursday.



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