London, Dec.1 : The England cricket team is set to return to India on Thursday or Friday to fulfil their agreement to play two Test matches later this month.
The ECB will present the players with a safety report today and is likely to confirm on Tuesday that the tour will resume later in the week. There are thought to be few security worries about Chennai but there is some concern about the team hotel in Ahmedabad, which is in the middle of the city.
The matches are likely to take place in Ahmedabad and Chennai, though Kolkata has been pencilled in as an alternative if the first of these venues is judged unsuitable.
The warm-up game due at the end of this week will now be played at, or near, the venue for the first Test, which is due to start in Ahmedabad on Thursday week, though everything is dependent on the England and Wales Cricket Board being satisfied about the security arrangements in India after the terrorist atrocities in Mumbai, reports The Guardian.
The board chairman, Giles Clarke, returned from business meetings in Colombia yesterday and the chief -executive, David Collier, came back early from holiday in the United States to take part in a -teleconference with members of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
It is understood that the ECB is also talking to the Indian and British -governments, high commissions in Indian cities, -security advisers and other risk assessment experts in order to give the cricketers a thorough dossier on safety issues in India.
The ECB has also spoken to the -International Cricket Council and the Professional Cricketers' Association, with whom there has been a constant dialogue.
Hugh Morris, the England team's managing director, has already held informal talks with the players. Thoughts of moving the preparation to Abu Dhabi, or of returning to India in the New Year, before the players fly to the Caribbean on January 21, have been discounted.
The national selector, Geoff Miller, said pulling out of the Tests "will not count against" any player and wants only those sure about returning:"Players need to be on their full mettle.
There is no point in anyone going out there if their mind is on physical self-preservation. We need them performing with bat and ball. But, depending on the character involved, it might not be right for some."
He emphasised safety was his priority and said the captain, Kevin Pietersen, was doing a "ring-round to canvas opinion", with the result expected today or tomorrow.
Morris hinted that England would not have their first-choice side for the Tests: "At the moment nothing has been confirmed with any of the players.
We are committed, as it stands, to playing in those two Test matches, subject to safety and security advice. The support we've had in India has been incredible.
Cricket is a galvanising force in that country and that's got to be taken into account as well."