Cricket

India vs England: Timeline of events leading to cancellation of Manchester Test

Here's a detailed look at the events leading to the cancellation of the fifth Test between India and England at Manchester.

India vs England: Timeline of events leading to cancellation of Manchester Test

File image of India bowling coach Bharat Arun with head coach Ravi Shastri. Sportzpics

The much-awaited finale to the closely-fought Test series between India and England was over before the two captains could even walk out for the toss on Day 1.

The fifth Test at Manchester, which was England's opportunity to level the series after getting outplayed at The Oval to concede a 2-1 lead, was called off as a result of the rising COVID-19 cases in the Indian camp with head coach Ravi Shastri among the personnel who contracted the virus.

The reluctance of some members in the Indian camp to take to the field on Friday despite the players testing negative led to an intense round of discussions between the two boards, which then was followed by plenty of off-field drama that included some sharp reactions on social media.

Hosting sporting events in a global pandemic has always been a challenge and cricket, which saw a three-month hiatus last summer due to multiple lockdowns across the globe, is no different. The latest episode involving the BCCI, ECB and the two teams at Manchester serves as another reminder of how letting one's guard down in times like these—when there's a fresh surge of cases thanks to new variants in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world—can be perilous.

Let us take a detailed look at the events leading to the dramatic Friday that might have just strained ECB's relations with the BCCI by costing them a fortune, and has led to massive confusion surrounding the fate of the series:

15 July: Jay Shah's letter 

BCCI secretary Jay Shah fired a letter to the Indian contingent in the United Kingdom after Rishabh Pant tested positive for COVID-19 during the extended break between the World Test Championship Final and the England Test series.

In his letter, Shah urged the players as well as the support staff to avoid frequenting crowded places and events such as Wimbledon and Euro 2020 matches during the break even if rules were relaxed by the government thanks to declining cases and increased vaccination.

Pant, as a result, had to sit out of the warm-up match in Durham, though that didn’t affect his position as first-choice wicketkeeper in the side.

1 September: Ravi Shastri's book launch

Despite the letter from secretary Shah, head coach Ravi Shastri, captain Virat Kohli along with several players and members of the support staff attended the launch of the book Stargazing: The Players In My Life at a London hotel on Wednesday, 1 September, one day before the fourth Test at The Oval was to commence.

Neither Shastri nor Kohli sought BCCI's permission for the same nor did they notify ECB of attending an event that was taking place outside the bubble, and was also attended by members of the general public, some of whom were unmasked.

File image of India bowling coach Bharat Arun with head coach Ravi Shastri. Sportzpics

File image of India bowling coach Bharat Arun with head coach Ravi Shastri. Sportzpics

Since the outbreak within the Indian camp, the book launch has come under the scanner of both boards as well as members of the press as well as fans. The BCCI, in particular, has expressed its displeasure at the Shastri-Kohli duo for their decision to attend the event and reportedly, will seek an explanation as part of its probe into the incident.

5 September: Shastri tests positive

Attending a crowded event during a global pandemic was always fraught with risk, and its effects were felt soon after as coach Shastri returned a positive test for COVID-19 on Saturday, 5 September, the penultimate day of the Oval Test. Along with Shastri, three other members of the coaching staff — bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and physiotherapist Nitin Patel — were placed in isolation.

Meanwhile, the players were allowed to go ahead in the match after every single one of them tested negative in the two Lateral Flow Tests that were conducted. India went on to produce a dramatic turnaround towards the business end of the match to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

6 September: More cases emerge from Indian coaching staff

Just one day after Shastri's positive test, members of the coaching staff Arun and Sridhar too joined the COVID-19 infected list, and the trio was instantly ruled out of any further participation in the series.

Shastri, Arun and Sridhar though were to remain in touch with skipper Kohli, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and the rest of the team and batting coach Vikram Rathour was to take Shastri's place for the final Test, which was to take place just four days after the conclusion of the Oval Test.

With physio Patel also in isolation, his assistant Yogesh Parmar was to fill in for him.

9 September: Assistant physio contracts virus

Tensions further escalated and doubts over the Manchester Test taking place grew after assistant coach Parmar became the latest member of the Indian camp of test positive for the virus.

Parmar's positive test not only forced the visiting team to cancel their practice session on the eve of the series finale, it also left them without a physio, forcing BCCI to request ECB to spare a physio for the squad.

The players were subsequently told to remain in their respective rooms with RT-PCR tests being carried out, though the match was ultimately given the green signal after all the players returned negative tests.

10 September: Match called off

Despite all the players returning negative tests, concerns surrounding the possibility of more cases emerging in the bio-secure bubble at Old Trafford was always going to be a threat. On the morning of the fifth Test, some of the Indian players expressed their concerns over having to play the fifth Test with the threat of the virus constantly looming over their heads.

A message from the organisers on a screen at the Old Trafford Ground Stadium confirms the cancellation of the fifth Test between India and England. AP

A message from the organisers on a screen at the Old Trafford Ground Stadium confirms the cancellation of the fifth Test between India and England. AP

Around an hour before toss on Day 1, murmurs surrounding the cancellation or postponement of the game started growing louder, which led to confusing scenes: what was initially understood to be the start of the match getting delayed turned out to be a case of it getting suspended.

As if there wasn't enough drama already, the ECB had initially, in its official statement, said that Team India had forfeited the game as they were "unable to field a team", which they later amended. The BCCI, additionally, later offered to reschedule the Test, with hosting it next year when Kohli and Co return for a limited-overs tour, either as a one-off game or to complete the series that's currently suspended at 2-1 in favour of Team India.

Updated Date: September 11, 2021 17:40:01 IST

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