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UK riots and cricket

Would you have pulled out?


COLLISON COURSE: Police cordon off the riot-affected area in Hackney, one of the districts in London that form part of the Olympic venues

The riots in England quite understandly raised the question of whether it was wise of the Indian cricket team to continue playing there. Birmingham became the lastest city to be hit by the unrest, even as the India and England teams prepared to kick off the third Test in Edgbaston. Four years ago, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai posed a similar dilemma - irrespective of the scale of the violence and security concerns - for the visiting England side. England were playing the fifth of the seven-match ODI series in Cuttack on November 26, 2008 when the attacks began. England flew back the very next day, cancelling the last two ODIs.

Members of the team were unwilling to travel to India again for the Test matches starting in December. BCCI persuaded ECB to make the trip. They also decided to change the venues of the Test matches. The Mumbai Test was rescheduled to Chennai.

The ICC security expert Reg Dickason travelled to Chennai in the first week of December to inspect the security measures. He went to Mohali as well (the venue of the second Test) and cleared both venues. The England team travelled to Dubai, but the final decision on whether they would travel to India had not been taken yet. Many of the former England players suggested that the team should not travel, but skipper Kevin Pietersen was keen to resume the tour after losing the One-day series 0-5.

With just a few days to go before the first Test, England finally decided to show up for the tour. Despite the initial reluctance, all the top players came for the trip.

As part of the security measures, BCCI decided to seal off the two floors where the teams were staying. The bus routes from the hotel to the ground were not disclosed. The fans were not allowed carry anything inside the ground, and they were allowed inside the stadium after three rounds of frisking. Nets were hung from the roof of the stands even during the match.

On December 9, England had their first training session at Chepauk but as Alastair Cook came to do an unscheduled press conference at the TNCA club, the organisers tried to stop it. They said that they didn't have prior intimation about the press conference and so they could not deploy enough police personnel.

The adamant England management insisted on carrying on with the press conference where Cook announced that the team would donate their match-fees to the victims of 26/11.

The Test was played in great spirit and after a roller-coaster of five days, India recorded a famous victory on the back of brilliant batting by Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

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