London, Nov 29 : Former England players and cricket captains, including Bob Willis and David Gower, have reportedly said that the England team should return to India to play their scheduled Test matches.
The squad was expected to arrive at the Heathrow airport this morning, after canceling the last two ODI's following the Mumbai terror strikes in which around 150 people have died so far.
The team flew home from Bangalore, 520 miles from Bombay, after their two remaining one-day internationals against India were cancelled following the terrorist attacks. The decision to leave raised concerns that the two Test matches scheduled for next month were now significantly less likely to take place.
Bob Willis, a former England captain, said that unless the team returned there was a risk that other countries may refuse to come to England in future. "If the country is deemed safe before the first Test in Ahmedabad on December 11 and the second in Chennai [Madras], they should go and play. Otherwise no one will come to England - teams will say we are as much a terrorist target as any country. I hope that within a fortnight, things will have settled down," timesonline.com quoted Willis as saying.
He added: "The England players stayed on in 1984-5 when Indira Gandhi and Percy Norris, the deputy British High Commissioner, were assassinated, but I can understand the reluctance of any cricketer to go into areas where there have been terrorist attacks. As Westerners are being targeted, it is sensible for the team to leave."
David Gower, who led England on that tour, said: "I would understand if there are doubts about staying on but I would expect that if the players went back to different areas of the country, they would be fine. I would almost suggest that if they went back to Bombay, they would be fine. India will provide full security, even though they will find it hard to get this out of their minds.
"We talked about coming home when Percy Norris was killed - we had had drinks with him only the night before. But we knew security would be tight enough," he added.
Derek Underwood, the former England spin bowler, who is now president of the MCC, said: "The Tests have been organised and there will be repercussions if we do not play in them. But the security has to be right and I think there is less chance of these matches being played now they are returning home. There were riots and the deportation of President Bhutto in my days as a touring player, but we did not have a fear that we were going to be bombed. If I was playing now, I would be pleased to get out."
Kevin Pietersen, the England captain, said he would not force his players to take part in any fixtures against their will. "People run their own lives and if the security is not right we shall not be coming back," he said.