The fifth and final Test match between India and England was looking like a mouthwatering encounter. Just a day before, it was announced that none of the players had Covid-19 and the match was scheduled to go ahead as planned.
On the day though, we were reminded that the Covid-19 era is far from over. Test cricket is pretty popular in England and ECB suffered losses amounting to $41.6 million as a result of the cancellation. To claim insurance, they needed India to forfeit the Test match which wasn’t feasible. India were on the verge of an exceptional series victory and were leading 2-1 in the series.
“This is not a Covid cancellation. This is a match cancelled because of serious concerns over the mental health and well-being of one of the teams. There is a difference. But it doesn't make a difference with respect to ticket buyers; they will be paid back in full. It makes a difference in terms of the ECB balance sheet,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo.
For sure, Indian players have a packed schedule with IPL starting this month. If they would have played the Test, they might not have been fresh for the gazillion dollar cricket extravaganza. On the other hand, they had toiled hard for those two victories at Lord’s and The Oval. They wanted to create history.
There may be a rescheduled Test next year to cover the losses and decide the series but nothing has been officially confirmed yet.
Whatever may be the reason, the cancellation of a Test like this doesn’t reflect well on BCCI. Just a few days before the Covid-19 virus struck some members of the team management, Virat Kohli was seen attending Ravi Shastri’s book launch. It was a public place and going there jeopardized such an important moment in India’s history.
During India’s tour of Australia too, some players like Rishabh Pant were seen in a restaurant. A fan even hugged Pant which created a huge controversy. Thankfully, the matter got resolved and no matches were cancelled.
Earlier, Virat Kohli had said at a post-match interview, “Scheduling needs to be looked at in future, because playing in 'bubbles' for so long, two to three months, is going to be very, very difficult going forward. You can't expect everyone to be at the same level of mental strength. Sometimes, you do get cooked and you do feel like a bit of a change. I am sure things will be discussed and things will change in the future as well.”
Coming to the IPL, four England players – Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler (all of whom played the Test series) have opted out. England players like Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Eoin Morgan, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, George Garton, Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy are still expected to play the tournament.
Ideally, the tournament should have been over a few months ago. But a string of players started getting infected and India went through a massive second wave (Covid-19) which led to the tournament getting postponed. The series will be important for a lot of Indian players who will look to fine tune their skills before the T20 World Cup which starts in October.
As fans, we may suffer a little bit whenever an exciting match gets cancelled. However, when we look at it from the players’ point of view, we understand their difficulty. Being confined to bio-bubbles can be extremely taxing and players like Ben Stokes have taken a break to recharge their batteries.
Cricketers are not caged gladiators and they too need a change of environment periodically. BCCI and all the other governing bodies must work on a feasible schedule that puts players first and greed second.