Senior Team India members, who had cancelled their pre-match training on Thursday after assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar tested positive, went into a self-imposed quarantine, got repeated RT-PCR tests done, and refused to take field the next day, saying was too much of a worry for them to focus on the cricket.
The BCCI decided to stand by its players and conveyed this to the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Thus, the world’s most powerful cricket board flexed its muscles to settle the issue, for now.
ECB first released a statement saying India had “forfeited” the match, then suddenly changed the status of the match to “cancelled”.
A forfeiture would have meant the series ending in a 2-2 draw. The series now stays 2-1 in India’s favour, with the option of playing a “rescheduled” Test whenever the opportunity arises.
BCCI secretary Jay Shah remained in touch with the players entire Thursday and Friday morning, asking them if they wanted to play the Test. The players, many travelling with their respective families, said the scare of Covid, and the thought of how the virus may react during the gestation period, was too much of a worry for them.
“It wasn’t an outbreak of Covid, it was a perception of what might happen post the physio testing positive. Over the course of the day, we tried to give as many different assurances that we could to give comfort to the players,” ECB CEO Tom Harisson was quoted as saying after the Test was finally cancelled.
The ECB, which had also been trying to assuage fears of the Indian team, and BCCI both released statements post the cancellation of the Test match.
“The BCCI and the ECB have jointly decided to call off the Test. Several rounds of discussion were held to find a way to play the Test Match. However, the outbreak of Covid in the Indian team contingent forced the decision of calling off the Test. In lieu of the strong relationship between BCCI and ECB, the BCCI has offered to ECB a rescheduling of the cancelled Test match. Both the Boards will work towards finding a window to reschedule this Test match,” the Indian cricket board said.
The BCCI has offered the ECB the option of hosting this Test match next year when India tours England for the white-ball series. Along with it, the BCCI has also offered ECB an added T20 international.
Given the ECB’s commercial arrangements, they will end up losing close to US$15m from the cancelled Test and an additional US$3m from losses incurred through sponsorship and gate revenue.
However, given that the Test match will be held next year, with the addition of an extra T20, the ECB will earn close to double of this year’s perceived loss. “Also bear in mind that two days of this Test match would’ve potentially been lost to rain. That would’ve in fact incurred ECB a loss,” said those tracking developments.
Harisson, meanwhile, reportedly said that this Old Trafford Test would be held during the next English summer, but as a “standalone”.
The exchanges between the BCCI and the ECB were not so ‘friendly’ throughout, even as both the boards came to a mutual agreement towards the end. For most part, the ECB refused to budge and expected the Indian team to take field. If not, the ECB expected India to forfeit the match and expected the series – poised at 2-1 in India’s favour – to be drawn 2-2.
The Indian team refused the offer and conveyed to all stakeholders concerned that the series would not be forfeited, and neither would they take the field on Friday. The cricket boards, they insisted, would have to find a third way forward.