It was around 6.30pm on Monday. Gautam Gambhir and Amit Mishra got down from a cab and entered their hotel. About 10 minutes later, four other Indian players in light blue track tops returned after an interaction with fans for the England & Cricket Board's Cricket-in-the-City programme at Victoria Square in the town centre.
At this point, we three journalists, decided to leave the hotel. We must have moved 100 yards away when around 50 youth, wearing hoods and gloves, passed us, marching briskly but in silence. All seemed headed towards the city centre.
Twice unlucky A mile ahead and at the entrance of a shopping mall, Bullring, we came across another similar group. A police helicopter hovered above and soon sirens of police cars could be heard from all directions.
Oblivious to the mobs’ intentions, the Indian team members were making plans for the evening. By 8pm, news spread of mobs rioting and looting around the city centre. The Indian team hotel is in central Birmingham but slightly away from the city centre.
When team manager, Anirudh Chowdhary, received a call from a Board of Control for Cricket in India official to ensure all team members were safely inside the hotel, a few were already having dinner outside.
“We were at the City Centre shopping in the evening and were making our plans to go out for dinner when the manager told us about the situation. We cancelled our plans and decided to eat at the hotel,” said skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Laxman had visited a local temple and was preparing to have dinner and Rahul Dravid was obliging a dinner invitation when they were asked to rush back to the hotel.
“After I got a call from the BCCI, I messaged all the players to be in their rooms. A few players were out at that time, but returned soon. Later, I spoke to each one of them,” said Chowdhary.
Suresh Raina tweeted: “Everything safe here guys don't worry thanks for your concern....focus on 3 Test can't wait for the match.”
Raina backs out In the morning, Raina came out of the hotel and wanted to go to a nearby shop but after enquiring with an Indian journalist, he decided against it.
Despite the riots, a press release by the Warkwickshire County Cricket Club said that the Test would start as scheduled. Both the teams turned up for their scheduled training in full strength on Tuesday.
The India skipper said his team were fully focused on the game. “It is sad what is happening but we can't do much as cricketers. Our job is to practice,” Dhoni said.
“There are authorities concerned who are looking into it.”