AP – The fifth and final test of the cricket series between England and India was cancelled yesterday in Manchester amid health concerns among India’s players following a coronavirus outbreak in their camp.
India was “regrettably unable to field a team”, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said barely two hours before play was to start, due to fears of more cases inside the group.
India was leading the series 2-1 and it wasn’t clear immediately what the final result will be, with the ECB quickly amending an initial statement that said India forfeited the test and the series was drawn 2-2.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said it was offering to reschedule the match.
“Both the boards will work towards finding a window to reschedule this test match,” the BCCI said.
ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison raised the prospect of a standalone test match between the teams in the future, which could potentially happen when India returns for six white-ball games next summer.
That also indicated the current test series was over, and would go down as a 2-1 win for India.
India’s entire touring party was forced to isolate in its Manchester hotel on Thursday and cancel its last pre-match practice after assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar was the latest person to test positive for the virus.
India coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharath Arun, fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar and main physio Nitin Patel had already tested positive and were isolating back in London.
“I have a lot of sympathy with the Indian players as they’ve had two physios (test positive) and the second one would have been treating all the players with some sore bodies ahead of a fifth test match,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain, who works for British broadcaster Sky Sports.
The threat of cancelling the match appeared to recede when a fresh round of COVID-19 testing among the remaining members of the India squad came back negative on Thursday evening.
“The BCCI has always maintained that the safety and wellbeing of the players is of paramount importance and there will be no comprise on that aspect,” the body said. “The BCCI would like to thank the ECB for their cooperation and understanding in these trying times.”
Casting a shadow over any attempts to reschedule the match is the lucrative Indian Premier League, which features players from both teams and is resuming on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates.
The postponement will definitely prove costly for the ECB, which gets much of its revenue from men’s test matches and could be down a further GBP20 million with no test at Old Trafford, and also English county Lancashire, which misses out on a test match and is not staging one next year when New Zealand and South Africa visit.
India was looking to follow up a test series win in Australia in the winter with a first series victory in England in 14 years.