England’s series-deciding fifth Test against India was sensationally cancelled before a ball had been bowled on the first morning at Emirates Old Trafford after the tourists were unable to field a team.
Here, the PA news agency looks at exactly what is known about that decision and what it might mean.
Why did India pull out of the game?
Having already experienced a Covid-19 outbreak during the previous Test at the Kia Oval, when head coach Ravi Shastri was one of three backroom staff to contract the virus, regular testing was in place heading to Manchester. Another positive test from a non-player was recorded on Wednesday, leading to widespread unrest in the squad. A full round of negative PCR tests was not enough to settle the matter and on Friday morning the game was cancelled with India unable to put up an XI.
How surprised were England?
Joe Root’s squad were aware of the uncertainty as they completed their pre-match preparations, with vice-captain Jos Buttler admitting it was a “fingers crossed” situation after India failed to turn up for their own training session or the pre-match press conference. At board level, things were even more clear as ECB chief executive Tom Harrison stayed up all night leading negotiations with Indian counterparts in a doomed bid to salvage the game.
So how does the series end?
The ECB initially announced that India had forfeited the result, essentially turning their 2-1 lead into a 2-2 draw and conceding the relevant World Test Championship points. That assertion was quickly removed, though, overwritten by a statement making no mention of forfeiture. The Board of Control for Cricket in India followed up with an offer to rearrange the match at an unspecified point in the future and the International Cricket Council may be called on to arbitrate on the outcome of the series.
Will the game be replayed?
That appears to be a solution both sides could come around to. The international calendar is notoriously unforgiving, but with India already set for a six-match limited-overs tour on these shores next summer, there is potentially room for some creative work with the fixture list.
What role does the IPL have in this?
The fact that India at one stage seemed reluctant to play this fifth Test, in a bid to make a smoother transition to the Indian Premier League, has led to some cynical assessments. Players had been due to fly out for the restart of the lucrative T20 tournament next Wednesday, the day after the completion of this match, but may now make a swifter exit. Any further positives or quarantine delays would have compromised the involvement of those individuals but Harrison has taken it on trust that was not a motivating factor, stating: “Let me be super clear, I don’t think the IPL has anything to do with this. I fundamentally do not believe that for a second”.
What are the financial implications?
Full refunds will be processed for the 85,000 tickets which had been bought in advance for the first four days, but other travel and accommodation costs cannot be recouped. The biggest chunk of cash, around £20million, is associated to broadcast agreements and could be saved by rebooking the match or other equivalent fixtures. Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney, meanwhile, has estimated that the cost to the host county will equate to a “multi-million pound loss” that the Red Rose cannot afford to sustain. They will need support from the ECB, whose own position may be dependent on a complex insurance claim.
Ooh, insurance. Sounds exciting, tell me more
The ECB view is that it would be covered under its policy for match tickets and other associated matchday revenues – which could be worth anywhere up to £10m – if the abandonment is put down to India’s withdrawal on grounds of mental health concerns. A Covid-related cancellation appears to represent a different matter. Harrison made it clear he does not view Covid as a direct cause, though both boards did mention the virus in their initial statements.
Could anything have been done to stop this?
There will surely be a review of protocols in any post mortem, but it has long been accepted that a return to last year’s restrictive ‘bio-secure bubbles’ was too much to ask of players. A more lenient set of measures were in place this summer, allowing for some greater freedoms alongside common sense judgements. Whether Shastri’s apparent appearance at a book launch or the repeated appearances of pitch invader ‘Jarvo’ contributed to breaching the security of the squads are questions to be looked at another time.