England Leaning Towards One-Off Contest If Manchester Test is Rescheduled
The Manchester Test between India and England was called off hours before the toss after COVID-19 hit the visitors.
Tom Harrison, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said that England and India facing each other in a rescheduled Test will be a stand-alone situation.
The fifth Test between England and India at Manchester was cancelled on Friday due to concerns over COVID-19 in the Indian camp.
"I think it will be a stand-alone situation. We've been offered other options, but I think a few hours into this we probably need to take a look. The glass-half-full version of this is playing a one-off Test match against India on this ground to give fans what they've missed out on," said Harrison to Sky Sports.
"Let's work on that and deliver it. It would be the only good news to come out of a day like this. There are financial implications (for the ECB) to this, but we are taking steps to mitigate those and make sure it is as limited as it can be," added Harrison.
Doubts over the Test taking place first came to light on Thursday when India cancelled their final training session and pre-match press conference. Later, it was known that the squad was confined to their hotel rooms after second physiotherapist Yogesh Panwar tested positive for COVID-19. It was the fourth virus case from the Indian team after head coach Ravi Shastri had previously tested positive for the virus along with bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar during the fourth Test at The Oval.
The threat to the Test reduced when RT-PCR tests of the squad came negative. But a number of Indian players conveyed concerns over the spread of the virus in the team, which meant the tourists were unable to put up a playing eleven.
"It's a really sad day. My heart goes out to fans. It's a special event when our two teams go on the park and we're absolutely gutted. There's no winners in this scenario and it's a sad day for Test cricket globally because internationally this game gets an absolutely astronomical audience. Everybody's upset by this," said Harrison.
"It became quite clear yesterday morning/lunchtime there was a problem. I think the anxiety levels in the Indian cricket team were causing serious concerns. It wasn't an outbreak of COVID-19, it was a perception of what might happen with the physio testing positive. Over the course of the day we gave as many assurances as we could to the players. Those tests came back again negative, but when you've got that sense of concern and anxiety in a dressing room - and we've been in this position ourselves - it can be difficult to reverse that," explained Harrison.
The 49-year-old, who briefly represented Northamptonshire and Derbyshire, affirmed that the mental and physical health of players is paramount in the game.
"I think fans do understand this now, but the physical and mental health of players is as important as each other. When the mental health situation starts to happen it can pervade through a dressing room very quickly and it can be incredibly hard to get people where they need to be to deliver at the highest level possible."
Asked whether the ECB's insurance covered a cancellation in case of COVID-19, Harrison said, "Yes, it does. We've got different types of insurance and it's a complex space. But the reality is all fans who bought tickets for this event will get their money back. As far as fans are concerned the only difference between a forfeiture and cancellation is the result (of the match and the series)."
Among the aspects in the tour of England that have come under the scanner are public events that were held in London while the Indian team was there for the Oval Test, which they won handsomely.
According to a report in Evening Standard, Ravi Shastri’s book launch was attended by around 150 people that included members of Indian cricket team under weak covid regulations. ECB CEO Harrison reportedly was invited by the BCCI and Shastri for his book launch.
The BCCI are reportedly going to probe the events in London where Shastri and Virat Kohli attended events.
Daily Mail that quoted one of the guests who claimed to have been present at the event, apart from waiting staff, nobody was wearing mask. “It was horrid. No one wore masks, apart from waiting staff. It left me feeling very uncomfortable. Everyone there went over to Shastri to meet him," the website quoted an unnamed guest as saying.
(With IANS Inputs)
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