London: Former English cricket captain Michael Vaughan now believes in fate. He has no other explanation of why he was not in one of the luxury hotels of Mumbai which were attacked by gunmen on Wednesday.
Vaughan, currently touring India, says but for a last-minute change in his itinerary he and some of his colleagues would have been caught in the terror strikes.
He is part of the second string English performance squad touring India to play two matches during their month-long tour. The Yorkshire opener was overlooked for the current India-England one-day and test series.
Writing for The Telegraph, Vaughan recalls how he narrowly missed being in Mumbai on Wednesday: "This week I was due to be in Mumbai with the rest of England's high performance squad. It was only at the last minute that our training camp was switched to Bangalore. I don't know why it was switched but we could have been there in one of those hotels when they were attacked."
Vaughan, who refers to some of his close escapes from terror in Asia in recent years, says the Mumbai strikes is the closest miss for him. "All our white Test kit is in one of the rooms at the Taj Mahal where one of the sieges has been going on: all our pads and clothes for the Test series, and our blazers and caps and ties. All the stuff was deposited there after England's two practice games in Mumbai at the start of this tour. That's how close the danger is."
On Wednesday night, around 11.15 pm, Vaughan and his colleagues were in the room of head coach David Barnes in the Bangalore stadium. They were talking about a replacement for pacer Stuart Broad who had been pulled up with a hamstring when they got a phone call.
"Then a few minutes into this meeting the phone rang in David Parsons room and it was our liaison man ringing to say 'Mumbai has been bombed'. We switched the TV on, and saw the Taj where I've spent so many nights and the Oberoi where I've spent so many evenings."
On Thursday morning he got several calls from family and friends in the UK asking about his well-being. Vaughan was happy not have been in Mumbai and was sure there would not be any such threats in Bangalore. But he was wrong.
"I didn't think we were under threat in Bangalore, and history to date says cricketers are safe. But our security man said we couldn't go in our England kit to the hotel where we eat 60 yards across the road from the stadium, and we'd have to go in cars, we couldn't walk. We were told we couldn't go to any of the hotels in Bangalore that westerners use."
Terror is getting closer to cricket, he feels. He recalls watching on TV a few weeks ago as the lorry-full of bombs went off at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, where England were due to stay for the Champions Trophy, and "thinking crikey, it's getting close".
Vaughan was also in India during the series towards the end of 2001, less than a couple of months after 9/11. "We had a couple of SAS guys with us, and police escorts even if two or three of us went out to dinner. There were metal detectors at the hotel entrance and on the players' corridors. Our last two tours of Sri Lanka have seen some pretty intense security too. But nothing happened, nothing on the scale of the tragedy in Mumbai."
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