Pietersen sets sights on Chennai
England captain Kevin Pietersen believes it is important England return to India for their rescheduled two-Test series as a show of support following the terror attacks in Mumbai.
The England team are due to fly to Abu Dhabi today where they will train ahead of the two-Test series, which is due to begin in Chennai on December 11. The second Test is now scheduled for Mohali.
And while Pietersen said a final decision on whether they will fly to Chennai will not be made until security reports are received on Sunday, the England captain is hopeful all 15 members of his side will return to the stricken country.
“Everybody has become a lot more open-minded as to their decision,” said Pietersen, who was flanked at the Heathrow Airport press conference by PCA representative Sean Morris, and ECB managing director Hugh Morris.
Watch ECBtv at Hugh Morris and Sean Morris' media conference after the squad announcement was made on Wednesday evening
“(The players) realise the importance of returning to India, to go back and do what we do best - playing cricket for England.
“We want to get the opportunity to go back and take a stance. They’ve come home and spoken to family members which has been very important.
“We want to rub shoulder to shoulder with the Indian people in a time of need.
“The boys are ready to jump on at three different airports in the UK, to come together as a collective in Abu Dhabi.
“I feel really proud to be captain of such a great bunch of guys.
“We had a great welcome in India. We want to play for the badge and make amends for the 5-0 (one-day international series) defeat we suffered in India.”
Pietersen acknowledged that the opportunity to stop off in the Gulf and gain some crucial practice time ahead of the first Test was key in affirming the decision to return to India on the advice of security expert Reg Dickason.
Abu Dhabi's relative proximity also places England in a position to come home, should security reports from India become more pessimistic in the next few days.
“We’re going to buy ourselves some more time being in Abu Dhabi,” Pietersen added. “We will be waiting on the reports from Hugh, Reg and Sean.
“If there are any major catastrophes or alarm bells ringing then Hugh will be ringing the board to say that the collective issue is to come home.
“Reg is out in India at the moment, and we’ll assess the situation on Sunday night. But I’m very confident we’ll have the 15 players going out and playing a Test next week.
“As it stands we’re off to play some red-ball cricket in Abu Dhabi, in order to start the Test in Chennai on Thursday.”
Pietersen refuted suggestions that he needed to talk any individuals into going to Abu Dhabi.
“I didn’t persuade anybody,” Pietersen explained. “I respect everybody’s individual concerns and the processes they have to go through. Ultimately they make decisions for themselves.
“I’m not sure that extra persuasion was needed. They have just become a lot more open-minded, given what Reg has said, and what has gone on over the last couple of days.”
Pietersen embarks on his second tour to India as a player, but he admits he will be taking advice from more experienced team-mates who made the tour to England in 2002, not long after the September 11 bombings.
Pietersen added: “I don’t know what to expect. A few players went out in similar circumstances to 2002. They will have a lot more advice.
“What is crucial is how we prepare in Abu Dhabi and then in Chennai - how the players get their heads on and concentrate on cricket.
“The last five weeks as captain have been fairly interesting. But I’m a positive person and I’m sure what we’re doing is a positive move.”
Hugh Morris thanked the cricketing authorities in the United Arab Emirates for their help in organising practice time for England.
The ECB managing director said: “I’m very grateful to the authorities in Abu Dhabi, who in 24 hours accommodated all our needs. It was a magnificent effort on their behalf.
“We’ll be flying a number of extra bowlers out to Abu Dhabi in order to give the players the right amount of preparation.
“The reason why we came back to the UK is because the tragedy was still unfolding while we were in Bhubaneshwar.
“Going to Abu Dhabi provides practice before the first Test and gives us a little more time to implement our security plans.”
Morris confirmed that if players become doubtful, they will not be forced into going.
“One thing we won’t do is twist arms,” said the former Glamorgan and England batsman. “Over the next few days we’ll absolutely get the most up-to-date information.
“If our security team comes back and feels the situation is safe and secure then we will go.
“If a player is doubtful then we’d have to discuss things with that player. If everybody is on the same sheet we’ll be on the plane to India.”