There was confusion and anger in Manchester on Friday morning as the English and Indian cricket boards argued over the financial implications and the status of the cancelled fifth Test, with around £40million at stake.
The ECB are understood to be furious with what they regard as reckless behaviour from the Indian tourists, with further reports of biosecure breaches by players and back-room staff in Manchester.
As the BCCI offered to reschedule the Test – presumably next summer, when India return to the UK for three T20s and three one-day internationals in July – English officials were insisting that India had forfeited the game, and pushing for a 2-2 series result.
England’s Jos Buttler carries his gear out of Old Trafford after the final Test was cancelled
Jack Leach leaves the ground along with his England team-mates following the late decision
ECB chief Tom Harrison speaks to the media amid a row over whether India have forfeited
The fifth Test between England and India at Old Trafford was called off on Friday morning
Crucially, the ECB are also arguing that the forfeiture is not related to Covid, since all the Indian players have returned negative PCR tests.
That point alone has huge ramifications for the question of insurance. If the Test is deemed to have been called off because of Covid, which is India’s contention, then no insurance is available. Insurance kicks in only if Covid is not ruled to be the reason for the cancellation.
After 18 months in which the ECB’s reserves have been all but emptied by the pandemic and costs associated with the Hundred, the board can ill afford another financial hit.
Of the £40m, it is understood that around £25-30m is associated with broadcast deals, with upwards of £10m linked to ticketing, hospitality, food and drink costs.
The drama began around midnight on Thursday night, when a group of senior Indian players delivered a letter to ECB officials saying they would refuse to take the field on Friday because of Covid concerns following another positive test for a member of India’s support staff.
Ollie Pope carries bats and bags after seeing the series with India come to a premature end
Sam Curran (left) speaks with England team-mate Moeen Ali after the controversial decision
The ECB are understood to be furious with what they regard as reckless behaviour from India
India recorded a fourth positive Covid test among their backroom staff late this week
Sportsmail revealed last week that Indian head coach Ravi Shastri had tested positive after attending a busy book launch in a London hotel, along with the entire Indian squad. Three more back-room staff subsequently tested positive.
If the ECB were already fuming about a decision which, they believed, jeopardised the Manchester Test, it has since emerged that the BCCI told the ECB that they were planning a team dinner that night. Instead, Shastri and Co mingled freely at the launch, with around 150 unmasked guests. One told Sportsmail that it was ‘horrid’.
On Friday morning, there were suggestions that a few members of the touring party were seen out and about in Manchester on Thursday – despite promises from the BCCI after the book-launch controversy that they would tighten their protocols ahead of the fifth Test.
As discussions continued between the boards about precisely why this game has been called off, there was also disagreement about the status of the Test itself.
The ICC regard Covid as an acceptable reason for non-compliance if it has a significant impact on a team’s ability to take the field. In other words, the ECB will in all probability have to launch a challenge if they are to change the result of the Test from a cancellation to a forfeiture. The indications on Friday morning were that they would do precisely that.
England star Haseeb Hameed wears a face mask as he departs Old Trafford on Friday morning
The news comes after India head coach Ravi Shastri tested positive for the virus on Sunday
India’s concerns have centred on a positive test for their physio, who has been working closely with their players.
On Friday morning ECB chief executive Tom Harrison played down suggestions that the Indians’ decision was related to the IPL, which restarts on September 19.
Meanwhile Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney said the club were ‘absolutely devastated about the late cancellation of the Test at Emirates Old Trafford’.
He added: ‘We’d like to unreservedly apologise to ticket holders and all those that have or are due to travel to Emirates Old Trafford. A full refund will be issued, but we appreciate for many supporters, attending this Test match is more than just the monetary worth.
‘After the last 18 months we’ve all experienced through the pandemic, it’s a fixture cricket fans in the North West have looked forward to for the best part of 18 months.’