England should not send second string team to India: Atherton

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/m/mikeatherton.jpg' class='caption'> Former captain Mike Atherton said if the security expert clears the tour, a full strength England team should be sent to India for the Test series.

Updated: December 01, 2008 13:07 IST
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Former captain Mike Atherton on Monday objected to sending a second-string team to India and said if the security expert cleared the tour, a full strength England team should fly out of the country for the two-match Test series.

Amid reports that players like Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, James Anderson and Graeme Swann were reluctant to tour, Atherton said there could not be any discrimination between players and only a full strength team should be sent for the Test series.

"There cannot be any question of sending a second-string team, since no player's life is more important than another's," Atherton wrote in 'The Times'.

"So if players decide that they do not wish to tour, then normal principles should apply: no tour fee and an understanding that no place should ever be taken for granted," he added.

Atherton said it was understandably a tricky situation for the players and the moot point was if India was safe enough for the series.

"If the advice from security sources hardens in the coming days - which it may well do, given that India was reported to be raising its security levels to "war footing" yesterday - to the point at which the advice is for England to stay at home, then no one should be accused of a streak of yellowness. Indeed, the ECB would have a duty of care not to place its players in harm's way.

"But, if the advice remains, as it does now, that other areas can accommodate cricket safely, then the ECB should send a team, and indeed should expect its players to go. Briefings have indicated that the ECB is considering Kolkata as an alternative venue to Ahmedabad for the first Test," he added.

In such a situation, security adviser Reg Dickason would play a crucial role, said Atherton.

"He is a jolly, moustached Australian who has been a permanent presence on England tours for the past few years. At times, his closeness to the team...raises the question as to how detached a view he is able to take in these matters. But his professionalism must be taken on trust and, since he is paid a princely sum to give advice about a topic in which he is expert, the players and the ECB would be foolish to ignore it," he said.

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