England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) CEO Tom Harrison revealed the Covid-19 cases in the Indian camp was not the main reason behind the cancellation of the fifth and final India-England Test match at Old Trafford in Manchester and it was in fact the ‘perception’ among Indian players of what might happen if the Test match went ahead as per schedule.
The series-deciding fifth Test match was cancelled barely a couple of hours before it was slated to begin on Friday as a number of senior Indian players reportedly expressed their reservations in taking the field following the positive test result of India’s assistant physio Yogesh Parmar on Thursday.
“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,” Harrison told Sky Sports.
The ECB CEO added that it had become clear on Thursday that the Indian players were not comfortable to play this Test match.
“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,” he said.
BCCI, in an official statement, announced they will work with ECB to reschedule the Manchester Test.
“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),” Harrison said when asked whether it would be a stand-alone game or the series-decider.
“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,” he added.
If the rescheduled match is a one-off engagement than India would be deemed winners of the series as it stands right now, something that has not been officially confirmed yet. The most likely window for the rescheduled game is July next year when India would be here for a limited-overs assignment.
Harrison said “medical people who understand this virus” were brought in to talk to the players on Thursday but they were clear about not playing the match.Their concern was positive tests during the match, which would have led to longer quarantine in England and possible loss of game time at the IPL starting September 19.
India’s head coach Ravi Shastri and three other support staff members were the first to test positive and are isolating in London.
“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,” he said.
“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 explained.
“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 said the ECB, however, would be able to handle the financial hit caused by the cancellation thanks to insurance cover.
“Our insurance covers cancellation for Covid. Fans will get their money back. Our finance department will handle that,” he said.