The fallout of the cancellation of the 5th Test between India and England which was to start on Friday at Old Trafford is far more complicated than what it was thought out to be at first. For starters, going by England and the Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) initial press release on the matter in which they stated that India are forfeiting the game, England would have drawn level in the series (2-2). However, that was ratified immediately with the line on India forfeiting the game being removed, hinting BCCI was not in favour of conceding the series. Soon after, both the boards sent our separate statements confirming that they are deliberating on reaching a fair solution to this unique conundrum. However, the basic questions fans are asking is what happens to the result of the series and how will it impact the World Test Championship points? India are on the cusp of history as a series win will mark their first Test series win in England in over 14 years. Another pertinent question being asked is whether the final Test will be played at a later stage and is it even possible to squeeze this one match in the near future in the busy FTP. And if played, will this be played out as the final Test of the current series or as a standalone Test?
Different Interpretations for Cancellation of the Test
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison’s comment on Sky Sports on any potential rescheduled match to be considered as a standalone match further fueled speculations that the current series is effectively over with India taking it 2-1. But, Harrison’s comments have not been backed by any official word from the board as of yet. It is interesting that in the ECB release, the board stated that “due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team”. On the other hand, BCCI in their statement wrote, “the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian team contingent forced the decision of calling off the Old Trafford Test Match.” Clearly, both boards are not on the same page when it comes to the interpretation of the decision to cancel the match.
The basic point of contention here seems to be on what lead to the cancellation of the Test and how it impacts both the teams. India are clear that this is a Covid-related cancellation. As per Cricbuzz, the ICC’s competition terms for the WTC allows a match to be cancelled if a team is unable to field a side due to COVID and India, owing to the positive cases within their support staff, are unwilling to play under these circumstances and as such, the game should be declared null and void. In that case, India walk away with a win and as for the WTC points, the series can be reevaluated as a four-match series with the points worked out on a percentage basis. However, it is not as straightforward as you think. None of the players of the Indian cricket team has returned a positive Covid-19 test so far – this after two rounds of RT-PCR tests being conducted. This essentially means there is no physical reason that prevents them from playing or taking the field. And this is where ECB’s interpretation comes in.
“This is not a COVID cancellation,” Harrison had said on Sky Sports. “The match was cancelled because of serious concerns over the mental health and well-being of one of the teams and there is a difference.” This would mean the game would need to be rescheduled, something BCCI mentioned in their release earlier in the day and both boards need to find a window for the same to play out. But, Harrison’s ‘standalone’ comment has complicated the issue. Going by that logic, this series is done and dusted with either India forfeiting the game or leave the series as it stands now, with India leading 2-1. Considering the fact that Indian players were reluctant to take the field for the 5th Test, one would assume why England would want to concede their position in this argument.
ICC’s Dispute Resolution Committee Could step in for Resolution
If BCCI and ECB do not find an amicable solution, then it will be up to the ICC’s Dispute Resolution Committee to look into the matter. If ECB does not agree to BCCI’s stand the series being cancelled, thus India taking a 2-1 win, they could contest the result under a Dispute Resolution Committee. “It’s a decision for ICC to think about in the context of the World Test Championship,” Harrison had said during his conversation with Sky Sports. He went on to add, “we separately have the ICC adjudicate over whether this series is completed now, whether that fifth match is null and void or whether it’s actually regarded as a forfeiture or something else”.
Massive losses England could incur
Another angle to this cancellation is that if this the 5th Test is deemed to be cancelled due to Covid, ECB will lose out on the insurance on refunding of the ticket sales, estimated to be about estimated to about GBP 10 million, as per Cricbuzz. “You lose an India Test match, of course, there is a financial implication to that. We’re just trying to work tooth and nail now to make sure that’s as limited as it can be,” said Harrison. “The ECB stands to lose 40 million pounds with 30 million in broadcasts and 10 million in ticketing and hospitality,” reported PTI quoting a source.
The most likely window for the rescheduled game is July next year when India would be here for a limited-overs assignment.