The fifth Test between India and England was cancelled on Friday amid a chaotic turn of events during which the host board’s statement on the visitors changed from “unable to field a team and will instead forfeit the match” to “regrettably unable to field a team”.
The development came after the visiting team was left on tenterhooks following physio Yogesh Parmar’s positive Covid test that led to concerns that the infection could spread during the match which was cancelled a couple of hours before the toss.
It is learnt that led by skipper Virat Kohli, who had the biggest apprehension of playing the game, the players, late on Thursday, got into a huddle and couldn’t be convinced by the BCCI brass to play the game.
The initial statement issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) categorically mentioned the word “forfeit” but that was later omitted from a revised media release.
“Due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team,” read the revised ECB statement.
A Covid-related quarantine would have meant missing out on IPL matches, starting September 19.
“Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV Insurance Test between England and India Men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford will be cancelled,” the ECB stated.
“We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many,” it added.
As of now, India are 2-1 ahead and have not been officially declared winners simply because there could be a chance of the fifth Test being played during the window in July next year when the team visits for a six-match white-ball series.
“There remains a possibility that the match will be played later some time,” a BCCI source told PTI.
It is understood that the Covid rule for the World Test Championship matches doesn’t include forfeiture and that’s where Kohli and his men were able to get their way.
Under the competition terms of the WTC, Covid is identified as “acceptable non-compliance should there be a significant impact of it on the team being able to play”.
This is because the match can remain cancelled from the competition and with ICC using percentage points system based on points won in matches played, a cancelled match is of no value to any team.
The Indian players had tested negative for the virus on Thursday but the 96-hour incubation period also factored in, and they didn’t want to risk returning positive and ending in 10-day quarantine, according to BCCI sources.
It could also have meant a 10-day isolation for some of the players, who play in the Indian Premier League.
There were many questions that cropped up during the last 12 hours for BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah with a number of factors being taken into account.
The Indian and English players were supposed to fly together in a chartered flight. Also, deferring the game by a day or two would have caused logistical issues.
“There is no guarantee that post Ravi Shastri’s book release function which the team attended, there won’t be more cases. So players were wary and more so about being in isolation for 10 days,” a source said.