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Well done, England. You're doing the right thing

Posted in England in India 2008

Andrew Flintoff

Security promises to be even tighter when England return to India this week

Courageous. Calculated. Collective. And, most importantly, correct.

England’s decision to return to India with a full-strength squad for the completion of the tour may have been a little while in coming, but it is the right one.

It will not please everybody - these things never do - and you can expect an avalanche of opinions from both sides of the fence following the confirmation that England will play the scheduled two Tests in Chennai and Mohali.

But I am firmly in the camp advocating the resumption of a tour that was cut short following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month.

Having been in India at the time of the attacks, albeit more than 1,000km away from the epicentre, I can testify to the impact they had on a nation and its people.

I was just one amidst the millions of largely peace-loving Indians who followed the rolling news channels as the scarcely believable events at the Taj Hotel and beyond unfolded in full gory colour.

Yet, as horrific as they were and as many lives as they claimed, the actions of the extremists who rocked Mumbai to its foundations have long since been curtailed.

Indeed, you could reasonably claim that the England players will be safer on their return than ever before, for they will no doubt be accompanied by a huge police and security presence, and history suggests the chances of terrorists launching another attack so soon after are slim.

That a threat exists should be sufficient to prevent the tour resuming, some will argue. It is a view laced with common sense, and one which is usually accompanied by the remark that life is much more important than a game a cricket.

But it remains a fact, however unpalatable, that we are all targets for extremists - all of the time.

If the possibility of finding yourself caught up in the sort of indiscriminate attack that rocked India to the core last month prevents you from travelling, it begs the question: when would you ever go anywhere?

Indian security

Despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, England deserve much praise for agreeing to resume their tour

England cricketers may be perceived as in greater danger than your average civilian, but if sportsmen are seen as prime targets for terrorists, one wonders why tourist hotspots rather than packed out stadiums always seem to bear the brunt of such brutal attacks.

We must also be careful to avoid a charge of hypocrisy here. It is seldom mentioned that Australia’s tour of England in 2005 continued despite the 7/7 bombs in London, if not without reference, then certainly minus the massive debate that has centred around the current India tour.

And how many of those urging England to stay at home did the same before the recent tours of Sri Lanka, a country the Foreign and Commonwealth Office lists in the same category as India in its travel advice section, and one where bomb attacks have almost become a staple of everyday life.

The phrase that "we must send a message to the terrorists" is and will continue to be trotted out with abandon, largely by people who are as likely to go to India as they are to the moon.

Yet, though their words may appear empty when spoken from their comfortable homes on the other side of the globe, they are right in that there must come a time when an attempt to return to normality should be made. That time is now upon us.

Indians will remember the bombs that wreaked havoc in Jaipur on May 13. They may not remember that an Indian Premier League game took place in the same city just four days later.

That a hotel sometimes frequented by England cricketers was targeted in Mumbai no doubt caused much soul-searching and prompted countless thoughts of ‘what if?’ among players who were away from home and away from their families.

And the gruesome events being played out in graphic detail over three days of live television must have left an even greater imprint on their minds.

Those images will linger on for some time, but the fact the players did not allow that to cloud their thinking today should bring them nothing but praise.

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