No one will be forced to go back, Pietersen tells England players

Kevin Pietersen insisted today that no England cricketer will be forced to return to India next month to play in a two-match Test series.

Pietersen and his team-mates began the journey home this morning and are due back in London tomorrow after the decision to abandon their tour following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

India and England officials say Pietersen’s team will fly back to the sub-continent in time for Thursday week’s First Test in Ahmedabad, provided it is safe enough to do so.

Kevin Pietersen

Coming home: Kevin Pietersen leads his players on to the team bus as they leave their hotel in Bhubaneswar, India this morning

However, England captain Pietersen has stressed that the decision to leave India was unanimous and made it clear that individual players will not be pressurised into going back if they are uneasy about the situation.

He said: 'We need to make sure the security’s right- but if it’s not safe then we won’t be coming back. People are their own people. I will never force anybody to do anything.

On a cricket field I might ask people in a certain way to do stuff but I can run nobody’s life. People run their own lives and make their own decisions.'

Kevin Pietersen and Reg Dickinson

Discussion: Pietersen and England's team security expert Reg Dickinson ponder the situation

England cricket chiefs will wait for an up-to-the minute security report before considering when, and if, the team should return.

'We’ll have to wait and see what decisions get made,' added Pietersen. 'We’ll make every single
effort to prepare ourselves and be ready to play in the First Test.'

Those preparations are likely to include playing a warm-up game in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, rather than the original Indian venue of Baroda.

Taj Mahal hotel

Near miss: England's players had been staying in Taj Mahal hotel just days before the terrorist attacks

That would mean England arriving in Ahmedabad only a couple of days before the First Test and spending barely a fortnight in the country. And one leading official admitted that a “massive challenge” has to be overcome for the series to go ahead.

'Let’s get the security experts to do all the hard work, find how safe it’s going to be and then present that back to the players,' said Sean Morris, chief executive of the players’ union, the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

Hugh Morris

Discussions: ECB managing director Hugh Morris is in close contact with his India Cricket Board counterparts

Morris spent much of yesterday in telephone conversation with Pietersen and England Cricket Board officials. But asked whether it was straightforward the Test series would take place as scheduled, he said: 'It’s going to be a massive challenge.'

With the images of the Mumbai massacre fresh in their minds, the England players will need plenty of convincing that it is not only safe for them to return to India but that playing cricket is the right thing to do.

'It was the right choice for them to come home, the only sensible choice,' Morris told the BBC.

'We’ve got some fantastic security consultants. We’ll go through the full process and present the findings back to the players and try to get to the point where everybody is happy.


Uneasy: England's players have been strongly affected by the attacks in Mumbai

'The job from here is to get the guys home, settle them down and then let the experts do the full, rigorous security report that gives us a chance of going back if everybody feels it’s safe.

'It’s a very fluid situation and we can’t predict what is going to happen over the next 14 days. We are all on the same page when it comes to security. It’s got to be first in everybody’s mind.

'No one is going to take any risks with that. If players don’t feel comfortable then the ECB won’t feel comfortable and, as a result, there’s no point in sending them over there.'

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