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Old Trafford Test cancellation: Cut the IPL some slack

Old Trafford Test cancellation
Old Trafford Test cancellation
©Reuters
 

Come on, it's not just about the IPL. Don't be so cynical.



It is understandable why the IPL cop out is so convenient. India never really wanted to play the 5th Test. There was an informal request to either cancel the 5th Test match or shift it before the beginning of the series, which of course did not materialize.

The Old Trafford Test was always under a cloud of uncertainty, with the scheduled end of the match (September 14) just five days prior to the beginning of the second installment of the IPL on September 19 in Dubai.

Upon reaching Manchester and sweating it out, Team India were all set to play the fifth Test match, and the confidence in the camp was sky high. It wouldn't have been a surprise had the series ended at 3-1. Obviously, it could have been 2-2 as well.

Things began to go pear shaped when India's second physio Yogesh Parmar showed symptoms of COVID-19 and tested positive just two days before the scheduled start of the Test match.

Most would know that India's head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar had already tested positive shortly after they attended the book launch of Shastri's 'Stargazing'.

You see, for all the social distancing norms in place, the work of a physio cannot be socially distanced. They are right in the face of the players, strapping them all over strange places to get them up and running for five days of the hard grind.

There was a genuine sense of concern in the Indian camp after the development. After all, this was the man with whom they had done a lot of work over the last few days. With him testing positive, was anyone actually safe anymore?

It is to be noted here that COVID-19 has an incubation period of a couple of days. The physio himself had tested negative a few days earlier before returning a positive test in Manchester. It was not beyond the realm of possibility for one or more of the Indian players to test positive in the middle of the Test match.

While there is a provision to name a COVID-19 substitute under the ICC guidelines, one cannot see how that would have panned out with the number of close contacts. The only feasible option then would have been to call off the Test match and isolate all the players and to continue testing them for three to four days to determine the affected.

This would have had a knock-on effect on the IPL and the T20 World Cup as well. While the IPL wouldn't have been cancelled, but gone forward without star players, much to the displeasure of the spectators and the broadcasters, just imagine the plight of the players who would have had to further isolate for 10 days in the UK.

Yes, the Indian cricketers are among the best-paid athletes throughout the world, but they are also human at the end of the day. The first time they assembled for the ongoing season was on May 16 when they came together in a hotel in Mumbai to quarantine before taking the flight to England for the final of the World Test Championship.

It has already been almost four months since and with the IPL, the T20 World Cup and the India tour of New Zealand coming up, how long can you keep stretching the string? It will snap sooner rather than later. Case in point Ben Stokes.

Accepted that all the adults in the touring party, the players and their spouses, have been double vaccinated, but many of them are travelling with kids as well. And there was genuine concern in the Indian camp regarding their health.

The BCCI, which was obviously keen for the Test match to go ahead to begin with, ultimately took the right decision to pull the plug, considering the physical and mental health of the Indian players.

While there is little doubt that the series would have run its course without the last minute positive test - undoubtedly a fitting end to what has been a sensational Test series - the moment the bubble (or managed isolation) was permeated, cancellation was the only feasible option when you come to think of it.

 

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