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Published: Saturday, December 15, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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London: A former England captain, who himself received terror threats while playing in India, said on Thursday that those selected for England's forthcoming tour there should make themselves available.[an error occurred while processing this directive]"I think they should go and get on with it," Tony Lewis, England's captain on its 1972-73 tour of India and Pakistan when its received threats from the Black September group, said.Current England captain Nasser Hussain, and the rest of his squad, must decide by 11:00 hours GMT on Friday whether or not, in the light of the terror attacks in the United States and the subsequent bombing raids on Afghanistan, they are willing to travel.But as yet there is no direct evidence that they have been directly threatened, as was the case when Lewis, who played first-class cricket for Cambridge University and Glamorgan, found himself leading England on a six Test tour of the sub-continent."We lived with 'Black September' threats against us almost from the moment we arrived in India," Lewis explained."They were aimed mainly at myself, Dennis Amiss and Alan Knott. The threats were treated very seriously but we carried on."'Black September,' a Palestininan terror group - the name was taken from the incident in September 1970 when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine blew up three hijacked airplanes in Dawson's Field, Jordan - killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in September 1972.It is believed that the recent terror attacks in the United States may have been timed to coincide with the anniversaries of both events.England's tour under Lewis began in December 1972 and then, as now, sportsmen found themselves being asked to go about their business in a dramatically changed political environment from the one they had known just a few months before.But Lewis added it was important for those who had doubts about going to India now to consider the wider picture. "I'm not saying the two situations are identical but I suggest that there may be a tendency for many sportsmen to take an exaggerated view of their international profile."However, Lewis, who on the 1972-73 tour had the unusual distinction of captaining England in his first Test, against India at Delhi, insisted he was not advocating a tour at any cost."I would certainly take the advice you're given, both from your own authorities and the host country."I would want those assurances. We were not foolhardy and I'm not suggesting anyone else should be. But with the right assurances then the tour would be entitled to proceed."Lewis' view contrasts sharply with that of former England all-rounder Ian Botham who has said it is "impossible" for the tour to go ahead."There's too much going on in the world at the moment and India is too close to the centre of the problems," said Botham.So far, four members of England's 16 man squad - all-rounder Craig White, fast bowler Andrew Caddick, middle-order batsman Graham Thorpe and, most recently, left-arm spinner Ashley Giles - have expressed serious reservations about going on tour.But were any or all of the above quartet to drop out England's selectors would have a number of key spots to fill in a squad already without the services of paceman Darren Gough and wicket-keeper/batsman Alec Stewart, who withdrew before the terror attacks in the United States.Among those who could come in following any withdrawals are Lancashire all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and Yorkshire quick Chris Silverwood.Warwickshire left-hander Nick Knight or Lancashire batsman John Crawley, one of England's better players of spin, would be contenders for Thorpe's place, while Middlesex left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell would seem to be the most likely replacement for Giles.All the players selected to tour India met with the British High Commissioner to Delhi here at Lord's on Tuesday as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) tried to allay their fears.However, were more than three players to drop out then doubts about the viability of the tour would start to grow in the minds of ECB officials, according to Richard Bevan, the players' representative.Bevan, who will tell the ECB on Friday which players are going and which are staying at home, said Thursday, "My guess is that, come Friday, if there are only two or three players, it is a simple situation to replace them. The issue will be if it is more than three."The tour party is due to arrive in India on November 14 and play three Tests by December 23. There then follows six One-day matches until February 4.

Copyright AFP 2001

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