NASSER HUSSAIN: Don’t blame India, blame cricket’s relentless schedule! Test cancellation was an utter mess but it is where we are in the sport right now and the conclusion was inevitable and sad for fans
- The villain of this piece was not India, but instead cricket’s relentless schedule
- This was a complete and utter mess, with the IPL now the elephant in the room
- It’s worth remembering India were wary about the proximity of the Test to the IPL
- As for the theory India pulled out of the Test as they were 2-1 up, that is nonsense
The people I felt most sorry for during Friday’s extra-ordinary turn of events were a group in our game who habitually deserve more respect – the fans – and the villain of the piece was not India but cricket’s relentless schedule.
On Friday afternoon, I boarded a train south full of gutted supporters. Hours earlier, some poor bloke from Edinburgh came up to me at the ground and asked me for a photograph. He faced a long journey home.
Spectators are always the last people we think about. Slow over-rates and going off early for bad light when there are floodlights is one thing. This is quite another.
The villain of this fifth Test mess was not India, but is instead cricket’s relentless scheduling
Sure, they will get their money back but they will not get to see any action, will not be reimbursed for travel and accommodation and are missing out on what might have been a thrilling conclusion to a fabulous series.
This was a complete and utter mess. Unfortunately, though, it is where we are in the world of cricket right now due to a packed schedule and the elephant in the room that is the Indian Premier League.
As soon as Covid got into the tourists’ camp, some of the decision-making was about that tournament, and it is worth remembering that India have always been wary about the positioning of this Test match so close to it.
It is worth remembering India have been wary about the positioning of this Test close to the IPL
You will recall that they tried to get it moved. Because of the finances involved, the IPL is non-negotiable to them. It simply has to take place.
And so when a team pull out of a match like this, it reaches an inevitable but sad conclusion for Test ticket-holders. With no wriggle room for re-scheduling, the best they can hope for now is a stand-alone match in future.
Naturally, puritan cricket-lovers will be asking how we got to a stage where we are prioritising the next franchise tournament over Test matches but that is where we are, and it is not going to change.
This is a player-power situation, just as we saw 10 months ago from England when Covid hit their camp in South Africa – some players wanted to get off to the Big Bash, others were just desperate to get home for Christmas.
When a team pulls out of a match, it is an inevitable and sad conclusion for Test ticket-holders
Like the Indian players this week, they did not fancy the risk of catching the virus and spending 10 days isolated in a hotel room.
I don’t blame the players because I experienced similar environments last summer. If someone had asked me to do a few extra days last September, I would have shown resistance, and I was just doing a few weeks here and there.
Yes, these players are handsomely paid but that does not make the hotel isolation any easier. And so when India’s physio and his assistant tested positive, India got fidgety. Physios are the closest of close contacts and by the end of a major series it is not just the fast bowlers being treated regularly.
Those India players, who have spent as much time living life in a bubble as the England players this year, would have feared the consequences of testing positive themselves and remaining locked away again.
When India’s physio and assistant tested positive, India got fidgety – as isolation is not easy
They have enjoyed a more relaxed bubble here in the UK and ultimately that is how Covid has got into the camp – but it is too easy for us to preach to the India team to play the game on the back of a round of negative PCR tests and double vaccinations.
When something like this hits it feels like the final straw and you develop a get-me-out-of-here mentality.
As for the theory that India have pulled out because they are 2-1 up? I just don’t buy it.
The theory that India pulled out of the Test because they were 2-1 up in the series is nonsense
Virat Kohli and his team want to create history, as they did when they won in Australia earlier this year. And to have done it properly. They did not want to win by default.
And things were in their favour in Manchester. England were missing three match-winners in Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, and the pitch looked like it would turn.
If you were India, you would see those as perfect circumstances in which to play.