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Dec 8, 2008

Full strength England to arrive in Chennai

A full strength England cricket team will board the flight to Chennai Monday for the first Test starting Thursday but doubts still remain on Mohali as the venue for the second Test.

The team was camping here since Saturday en route India for the unfinished series, which was cut short after the terror-attacks in Mumbai last month.

It was only after a closed door team meeting Sunday night with Hugh Morris, managing director of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), as well as security advisor Reg Dickason, that the players agreed to catch the flight to India.

The three officials toured India last week to assess the security situation. Mumbai and Ahmedabad were the original venues but after the terror attacks the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) changed the venues on ECB's request.

Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison, who were reluctant to travel to India, changed their minds after the briefing.

'The players have made a very brave and very courageous decision that I'm sure they will be hugely respected round the world for,' said Hugh.

PCA chief executive Sean said the players challenged Dickason's report but the security advisor assured them of the steps in place for the tour.

'I spoke to Steve. He has been fantastic and it is a tough call with a young family. Ultimately, he's representing his country and hats off to him,' said Sean.

Hugh admitted that Mohali had still not received security clearance and Dickason will fly to the northern Indian city Monday to begin another detailed investigation.

'We are going to India with a view to playing two Tests. The second will be in Mohali, subject to the assurances we can get on security grounds,' Hugh said.

If Mohali, which is in the state of Punjab bordering Pakistan, does not get the green signal then the Test might be shifted to Bangalore or Delhi.

Hugh said the English cricketers would be remembered for doing something that transcends cricket and goes beyond the boundary. He also said the series could 'galvanise India and help to rebuild it after the tragedy in Mumbai'.

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