The fifth Test between India and England was called off on Friday (September 10), following a chaotic turn of events in which the host board’s statement on the visitors changed from “unable to field a team and will instead forfeit the match” to “regrettably unable to field a team.” The development came after the visiting team was left on edge following physio Yogesh Parmar’s positive COVID-19 test, which raised concerns that the infection could spread during the match, which was called off a few hours before the toss.
It is understood that the players, led by skipper Virat Kohli, who was the most apprehensive about playing the game, got into a huddle late on Thursday and couldn’t be persuaded by the BCCI brass to play the game. The word “forfeit” was explicitly mentioned in the initial statement issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board, but it was later removed from a revised media release.
“India are regrettably unable to field a team due to fears of an increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp,” read the revised England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) statement. A COVID-19-related quarantine would have meant missing IPL matches beginning in September.
As of now, India leads 2-1 but has not been officially declared the winner because the fifth Test could be played during the window in July next year when the team visits for a six-match white-ball series.
“There is still a chance that match will be played later,” a BCCI source told news agency PTI.
— DK (@DineshKarthik) September 10, 2021
It is understood that the COVID-19 rule for World Test Championship matches does not allow for forfeiture, which is how Kohli and his team were able to get their way. COVID-19 is identified as a ‘acceptable non-compliance should it have a significant impact on the team’s ability to play’ under the WTC competition terms.
This is due to the possibility of the match remaining cancelled from the competition, and because the International Cricket Council (ICC) uses a percentage points system based on points won in matches played, a cancelled match has no value to any team. According to BCCI sources, the Indian players tested negative for the virus on Thursday, but because of the 96-hour incubation period, they didn’t want to risk testing positive and ending up in a 10-day quarantine.
It could also have meant a 10-day suspension for some of the Indian Premier League players. Many questions have been raised for BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah in the last 12 hours, with a variety of factors being considered.
The Indian and English players were supposed to take a charter flight together. Furthermore, postponing the game by a day or two would have created logistical issues.
“There is no guarantee that there will be no more cases following Ravi Shastri’s book release event, which the team attended. “As a result, players were wary, especially about being isolated for 10 days,” a source said.
(with PTI inputs)