The fifth and final Test between India and England, which was due to get underway on Friday (September 10) in Manchester, was called off at the eleventh hour. The decision was taken after India’s assistant physio Yogesh Parmar returned COVID-19 positive on the eve of the game.
The turn of events left the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) CEO Tom Harrison “gutted” as he said it was the Indian players’ anxiety over “what might happen” and not the COVID-19 outbreak itself that caused the cancellation of the Old Trafford Test.
“It’s a really sad day, my heart goes out to fans. We are absolutely gutted. Internationally this game gets an astronomical audience. It became clear yesterday around lunchtime that there was a problem in terms of the anxiety level in the Indian team.
“It wasn’t an outbreak of COVID, it was a perception of what might happen to 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,” Harrison revealed.
After the match was called off, BCCI offered the ECB to reschedule the match at a later date. Harrison, however, made it clear that the proposed rescheduling would be a one-off game rather than a decider for the series.
”No, I think it’s a stand-alone situation. We have been offered a few other options, probably need to take a look (at those),” Harrison told ‘Sky Sports’ when asked whether it would be a stand-alone game or the series-decider.
“The glass half full version of it is that the prospects of playing a one-off Test match against India as a focal point on this ground, let’s try to deliver on that. It can be the only good news that comes out of a day like today,” he added.
If the rescheduled match is a one-off contest then India would be deemed winners of the series as they had taken an unbeatable lead of 2-1 after the four games. However, it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.
Furthermore, Harrison said “medical people who understand this virus” were brought in to talk to the India players but they were clear about not playing the match.
“Once you have got that sense of anxiety in the dressing room, it would be very difficult to reverse that. The physical and mental health of players is important,” he said.
”People understand that when you have pulled a hamstring you cannot play but when you have a mental health issue akin to a hamstring pull, that’s less well understood,” he explained.
“We are in a situation now that we are not in bio-bubble but in managed living standards, which is better for players. It is not a COVID-free environment but a COVID-managed environment.”
The cancellation of this Test match has certainly taken a toll on ECB’s pocket but Harrison is confident of handling the financial hit thanks to insurance cover.
“Our insurance covers cancellation for COVID. Fans will get their money back. Our finance department will handle that,” he said.