Manchester Test Cancelled: Do India Win England Test Series 2-1?
The Manchester Test was called off less than 2 hours before the toss after COVID-19 hit Indian camp on Thursday.
A little less than two hours before the toss at Manchester on Friday, 10 September, the final Test between India and England was called off. The England Cricket Board insists it is not due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the Indian camp. The Indian camp, meanwhile, say it was the outbreak of the virus and that safety of those involved comes first.
Once the game was called off, there were two concerns – the health and safety of the players after Indian physio Yogesh Parmar tested COVID positive on the eve of the Test, and secondly, the result.
“This is not a COVID cancellation. This match has been cancelled because of serious concerns over the mental health and wellbeing of one of the teams," ECB CEO Tom Harrison was quoted as saying by Wisden.
“The BCCI and ECB held several rounds of discussion to find a way to play the Test Match, however, the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian team contingent forced the decision of calling off the Old Trafford Test Match” the BCCI statement read.
"The BCCI has always maintained that the safety and well-being of the players is of paramount importance and there will be no comprise on that aspect."
Who wins the Test series? Will the final game just not be played? What are the playing conditions and regulations in COVID-19 times?
Questions aplenty mixed with a shade of controversy, the ECB’s initial statement suggested that India had forfeited the Test before it was modified, meant plenty of chaos.
England had been in a similar situation in December when their one-day series in South Africa was postponed amid fears COVID had infiltrated the team, even if the two positive tests were later found to be negative.
Who Decides on the Fate of the Series?
As per the statements of the boards concerned, BCCI and ECB, the series has not ended with the Indian side offering to reschedule the Test.
According to the ICC regulations for the World Test Championship, COVID-19 is an acceptable reason for cancelling a match if it has a significant impact on a side fielding a team.
The ICC is expected to decide the result of the match and series, which India led 2-1 to leave them on the brink of a notable double after their series win in Australia, although a quick verdict is unlikely.
If the ICC deem the Test called off due COVID-19, then the game stands abandoned. Also leaving England in a spot of bother financially.
"It (Test being called off) doesn't make a difference in respect of a ticket buyers; they will be paid back in full," said Harrison. "It makes a difference in terms of the ECB balance sheet."
If the ICC decide that India has forfeited the game, then the series will finish 2-2.
The third option for ICC is to direct India and England to play a Test in July 2022 when the Virat Kohli led side travel to UK for 6 white-ball games. The current WTC cycle is from 2021-2023, allowing the ICC leeway for such a decision.
"We have to just take a breath and ask the ICC to formally adjudicate on the result of this," Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, said. "The BCCI have offered to reschedule the match, which is good news. But whether that is part of this series, a fresh one-match series or the first match of another series, I don't know yet. These are the things that we need to take some time over. I know that fans will be anxious to know. Players are, too."
What Happens If There is Dispute?
If neither the BCCI or the ECB can amicably decide on the fate of the cancelled Test with regards to rescheduling or not rescheduling it, and aren’t happy with the ICC’s view, they can take the matter up with the ICC's Dispute Resolution Committee, which is currently chaired by Michael Beloff QC.
While the situation, if it reaches such a stage, is surely going to be unpleasant, the England camp is likely to point at a breach in protocol in London with Ravi Shastri’s book launch. However, with teams not being in biosecure bubbles, what constitutes a breach remains unclear.
If it rumbles on till this point, India could then point to England leaving South Africa in the middle of an ODI series in 2020 and also the security breaches when 'Jarvo' waddled his way into the field of play on three different occasions.
Mood in the Indian Camp
Ahead of the Manchester Test, India had already been nursing a few niggling injuries with the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja all among those being treated by the physio.
The Indian team, who had travelled with their families and were huddled in their rooms on the morning of the Manchester Test, had raised concerns about playing, especially with COVID-19 hitting the camp the way it did.
Before the physio tested positive on Thursday, India had Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar test COVID positive in London. They had not travelled with the team to Old Trafford.
Nitin Patel, the other physio, had been identified as a close contact of the three and is also isolating in London.
On the morning of the Test, with so much concern and chaos in the air, India’s senior players, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma pushed the red button after long discussions, Indian Express reported.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Dinesh Karthik said: "I spoke to a few of the guys. The general feeling is, after the fourth Test, they are tired. They only have one physio right now; they have done a lot of work with that man and now he tests positive. Now that is the problem. If it was someone else, someone working in logistics, they wouldn't be this afraid. But when this person got it, that's when they got the jitters."
"You have to understand that soon after they have the IPL, the World Cup soon after that, the New Zealand tour, one-week turnarounds. How many bubbles can they do? When they assembled in India it was 16 May. It's four months now. That's a lot of time. Most of the guys today haven't slept until 2:30-3am in the morning. The Test happening today was out of the question. You must remember that there is a good chance that a PCR three days later could show a positive and if he is playing in the match, what happens to that person? Is he going to spread it around? Is he the super-spreader that puts every other player in jeopardy?" he added.
What’s Next on the Agenda?
For the ECB, BCCI and the ICC, rescheduling the Test is unlikely to be the most important thing on their agenda with the IPL and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup coming up very soon.
Right after the World Cup, England turn their focus to the Ashes in Australia while India travel to South Africa for a multi-format tour beginning 17 December to 19 January.
All the players who will now travel from UK to the IPL from Manchester, will do so by chartered flights and quarantine for six days on arrival.
Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar is of the opinion that the BCCI should genuinely consider playing the Test when they return to England next year. Gavaskar cited the Mumbai attacks in 2008 when England headed back from India after the incident but came back to play the Test series.
“Yes, I think that (rescheduling the cancelled Test) would be the correct thing to do. Look, we, in India, should never forget what the England team did in 2008 after the horrific attack, the 26/11. They came back,” Gavaskar told official broadcaster of the series Sony Sports.
“They would have been perfectly entitled to say ‘we don’t feel safe. We are not coming back’. Never forget that Kevin Pietersen led the team, and he was the main man. If KP had said, no I don’t want to go, that would have been the end of the matter," he said.
“It was because KP was willing to go and he convinced the others, the team came and we had that fantastic Test match in Chennai where India chased 380 to win on the last day. It’s absolutely apt that the BCCI now says, right next year, we are still coming to England. I think there will be a little lean period. I think the IPL will finish in early June. So, there is enough time for them to go a few days early, depending on whether we still have Covid and all the restrictions and maybe play a Test match before or after,” Gavaskar added.
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