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United we tour, asserts Freddie

Andrew Flintoff has hinted that the need for team unity drove the decision to resume England’s tour of India. The all-rounder was one of the players with reservations about returning to play the two-Test series in India.

cricket Updated: Dec 08, 2008 23:31 IST

Andrew Flintoff has hinted that the need for team unity drove the decision to resume England’s tour of India. The all-rounder was one of the players with reservations about returning to play the two-Test series when the final security briefing began at England's Abu Dhabi base on Sunday night. But the full-strength squad travels on to Chennai ahead of the first Test, which begins on Thursday, and they will be protected by unprecedented levels of security.

Flintoff said: “It’s been a difficult last three days. Throughout, everyone has voiced their opinion, whether they be junior or senior players. Everyone has decided to go, so to say it was just about the senior players would be wrong. We have decided to go as a team.”

England have spent three days at a Sheikh Zayed Stadium training camp in preparation for a two-Test series. “When we have been practising out on the field, batting and bowling, the intensity has been fine,” Flintoff said. “But when people are on their own, and with time to think, the mood has been different.”

Personal doubts about the ethics of returning to the subcontinent so soon after the Mumbai terror attacks, and reservations over trying to concentrate on cricket while surrounded by armed guards, will now have to be put aside as England focus on tackling an India side in magnificent form.

“If you win anything in India I think you are doing well,” Flintoff added. “Particularly with the way they played in the one-dayers, and the way they played against Australia. We have now got two Test matches to show what we can do.”

The England squad’s collective decision to resume their tour was praised by their managing director Hugh Morris, who said the 15-man party had made a mark on the game from outside the boundary.

“I said right from the word go that we wouldn’t be twisting people’s arms up their backs,” said Morris. “It says a lot for the solidarity of the team that everybody is going to go across. Every now and again sportsmen and women have the chance to do something beyond their performances on the field.

“For very tragic reasons, the England team have that opportunity, they have made a very brave, a very courageous decision and one which will be really respected right across the world.”

Former England Test batsman Chris Broad welcomed the resumption of the tour as “important for world cricket”. Broad, whose son Stuart is a member of the squad flying from Abu Dhabi to Chennai today for the first Test on Thursday, believes the correct decision has been taken, adding that failure to complete the tour would have isolated Indian cricket.

“I think it’s a terrific decision for cricket in general,” Broad said. “Over 70% of funds come from the Indian sub-continent, so clearly there is a monetary issue there, but it's huge for the game of cricket that India is not isolated.”

Decision to tour driven by business deal: Report

London: England’s decision was not driven by their urge to stand by a terror-stricken country but by a business deal, according to media reports here.

Apparently, it took lot of deliberation and persuasion on the ECB’s part to convince Kevin Pietersen and his men to tour India. But according to a report in The Independent, the joint ECB-BCCI effort is actually a marriage of convenience and hinged on mutual benefit. “Let us not be fooled by the idea that this cause is entirely noble,” the report said.

“The BCCI, sensing how much cricket means to its people, has moved heaven and earth to make the tour possible.

“But India also have other assets to protect in the form of the IPL, and England need India on their side to make a success of their own so-called England Premier League starting in 2010. There are commercial imperatives at play,” it added. By agreeing to tour India, the report claimed, the players were increasing their stake for the next edition of the cash-awash IPL.

GNS/Agencies