Not outbreak of COVID, perception of what might happen: ECB CEO on India’s unwillingness to play fifth Test

Tags: England tour of India 2021, India, England, England vs India, 5th Test at Manchester, Sep 10-14, 2021

Published on: Sep 11, 2021

Scorecard | Commentary | Graphs

England Cricket Board (ECB) CEO Tom Harrison on Friday said it was Indian players' anxiety over the COVID-19 situation in their camp and not a COVID-19 outbreak that forced the cancellation of the fifth and final Test at Old Trafford in Manchester. The fifth Test was always in doubt after assistant physio Yogesh Parmar's positive COVID-19 test on Thursday. Before that, head coach Ravi Shastri and he support staff were also sent into isolation after the former tested COVID-19 positive in the midst of the fourth Test

Explaining the situation while speaking to the media, Harrison said, "It's a really sad day, my heart goes out to fans. We are absolutely gutted. Internationally this game gets astronomical audience. It became clear yesterday around lunch time 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 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," he added.

While the BCCI has agreed to reschedule the game, Harrison said that the Test, whenever it will be played, will be seen as a standalone match. What happens to the eventual result of the ongoing series in unclear. Initial reports stated that India had forfeited the game and hence the series ended 2-2. However, it was later clarified that nothing of that sort has been decided.

Speaking on the proposed rescheduled Test, Harrison told Sky Sports. "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). 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."

The most likely window for the rescheduled match could be July next year when India visit England for a white-ball series. The ECB CEO confirmed that medical experts were made to speak to the Indian players to convince them about going ahead with the Test.

"Once you have got that sense of anxiety in the dressing room, it would be very difficult to reverse that. Physical and mental health of players is important. 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 said.

"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 COVID-managed environment," Harrison explained.

The Indian and England players will now head to the UAE for the IPL, which starts on September 19. Franchises are looking make arrangements to fly their respective players to the Middle East.

--By A Cricket Correspondent

Related News