The BCCI has unveiled a revised itinerary for England's tour of India, with Chennai and Mohali named as the two Test venues, replacing Ahmedabad from December 11-15, and Mumbai from December 19-23.
According to a BCCI press release, the ECB has informed the Indian board that it has agreed to the revised schedule, in which the warm-up match in Vadodara from December 5 to 7 has been scrapped. The tour will be officially cleared after discussions between the ECB's security consultant and officials in India, N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, said.
However, the ECB has yet to confirm that the tour is back on track, and is still awaiting the security audit being prepared by their security expert, Reg Dickason. No further announcement is expected from the England camp before Tuesday, as the players continue to weigh up the pros and cons of a return to India, so soon after last week's terrorist atrocities.
The new series itinerary might go some way towards calming England's fears, however. The original venue for the first Test was Ahmedabad in Gujarat, which was ruled out both because of its proximity to Mumbai, and because it was the scene of serial bomb blasts three months ago.
Chennai, which hosted South Africa during their Test tour earlier in the year, was offered as an alternate for the first Test because it is seen as having the least threat perception from a security point of view, which will help ease the immediate fears some of the England players have over touring India.
The ECB had specifically asked for a southern Indian venue for the second Test, instead of Mumbai, and Chennai was the original replacement. They have now been offered Mohali, a satellite town to Chandigarh in the north of the country. From a logistical point of view, the venue's proximity to Delhi should enable the tour party to obtain an easy passage back to England at the end of the tour and allow the squad to link up with their families for Christmas.
Despite the itinerary changes, the ECB have paved the way for a weakened squad to return to India, with the national selector, Geoff Miller, insisting that no player would jeopardise their prospects of future selection if they chose not to tour. Three senior players are already believed to have ruled themselves out: Andrew Flintoff, who also suffered an ankle injury during last week's fifth ODI; James Anderson, whose wife is pregnant, and Steve Harmison.
Harmison, unsurprisingly, has been the most vocal dissenter in the England camp. "I'm sorry, but whatever is being asked of us in the next few days, at the moment, the idea of being asked to go back out there is the last thing on my mind," he told the Mail on Sunday. "This is beyond cricket. This is beyond anything. It's all very well for people back home to say we should carry on with the tour, but none of what has happened has anything to do with cricket."
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