English allrounder Andrew Flintoff's latest autobiography, Ashes to Ashes, is being serialised in the Daily Mail. In the excerpts up on the Daily Mail website on Thursday, Flintoff has described India during the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. The English team was in Bhubhaneswar at that time, in the middle of a seven-match ODI series against hosts India. The last two games were subsequently cancelled after the England players decided to go home, fearing further terror strikes.
Flintoff has made several controversial remarks through his high-profile career, and some explosive statements here are not likely to go down well with the BCCI or the England and Wales Cricket Board. Excerpts.
On reported pressure from the cash-rich BCCI: The ECB told us about the money they would lose by not playing the Test series and they emphasised the impact that would have on cricket in England, on county cricket and grassroots cricket. Basically they were telling us that if we went home some lad in Preston (Flintoff is from Preston) might not be able to play cricket.
The Indian organisation had become very powerful with the success of the IPL and the launch of the Champions League Twenty 20 tournaments. It was also an open secret that the ECB wanted to get the Indian players over for their own Twenty20 tournament and I got the impression they were frightened to death of jeopardising that.
On the return to India for the Tests: We were going back to India, after our tour had been interrupted by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, with so many questions. For starters, how many armed guards were we getting and how good were they going to be?
The previous lot had been taking photographs and asking for autographs! We wanted to know if these were going to be like that, or more professional. Instead, when we got off the plane it was like a military procedure.
On the scenes in Mumbai during the attacks: I went to the bar with Peter Moores and a few of the lads and watched the scenes coming through on the television. We all sat there in a state of disbelief at what we were seeing — people shooting from cars, fires blazing in the hotel. I know there was coverage of the incident back home but in India we were watching extremely graphic images. We saw dead bodies. We saw people being shot. We saw everything pretty much as we would have done had we been standing there on the street. At that stage you start phoning home.
On the man who is obviously not his friend, Kevin Pietersen: I called a team meeting to talk through the situation. Kevin was very keen to play the Tests but some of the lads were against it and they gave their reasons. Kevin left after about half an hour to have a massage while the rest of us continued our discussion. At that stage most of the lads didn't want to come back. Stories about terrorists targeting westerners didn't help.
(Courtesy: The Daily Mail)