Chennai: Englishcricket team pledged to donate half of its match fees from the first Test against India to help victims of the terror attacks that killed at least 171 people in Mumbai last month.
England's statement, released on the players' arrival for a training session at Chennai's Chidambaram Stadium that has been converted into a fortress by armed security staff, said the decision to return was intended to extend our sincerest sympathies to those families that have lost loved ones in the Mumbai attacks." Opening batsman Alastair Cook added that the England players now want to focus on winning the Test series.''As a cricketer, first and foremost, (we are here) to win a Test match series in India. The England players will pay half their match fees from the first test match to the families of the victims of the Mumbai attacks,'' he said.
The terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month killed 183 people and led England to cut short its seven-match ODI series with two more matches to go.
England arrived in India yesterday after security experts were satisfied of the measures put in place for the two Test matches which were switched to Chennai from Ahmedabad and to Mohali from Mumbai.
According to the statement, England's return signified an ''open and public statement of support for the Indian people following the tragic events in Mumbai recently.'' ''We have made a massive pact this morning at our meeting when we came up with the statement that this is it and nothing else can distract us from playing cricket.
''It was something that everyone wanted to get across because as a side we felt we wanted to do it,'' Cook added.
The Essex left-hander scored an unbeaten century on his Test debut at Nagpur, having been flown out from the A tour in West Indies two years ago following an injury to then captain Michael Vaughan.
His success in similarly disrupted circumstances has given England hope they can defy expectations and compete against an Indian side which is on a hig after a series victory against Australia last month.
''What has happened recently has been taken out of our control but this side has got behind each other and made some tough decisions.
''We're here as a unit now and we have to play some cricket.
The preparation isn't ideal but I came here two years ago, flying half way around the world and had one training session and then played so it can be done - you don't just suddenly lose your technique overnight.
''I remember turning up for my first Test match and jet lag doesn't really affect you when you've got adrenalin kicking through your body.
''You can use any excuse about the preparation but I turned up last time having travelled all the way around the world and luckily I performed well on that day and it proves if you're mentally switched on you can achieve things and that's what we need to do as a side now,'' Cook added.
The English team was flown to Abu Dhabi where it practised for three days before moving out to India for the Test series.
''It's probably not the ideal preparation.
''We have made a massive pact as a side this morning in our meeting when we came out with a statement, that this is it and nothing else can distract us from playing cricket individually and as a side,'' the left-hander said.
However, the opener said the situation has made the team determined to prove that it was better than what the 0-5 loss in ODI series showed.
''We are here now, we have a great chance to play against a very good side in India. That's the exciting challenge of playing cricket, and the one we are looking forward to.
''It's all about tuning in our minds now. If you are mentally switched on you can achieve things, that's what we need to do as a side now,'' he conceded.