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Friday, September 10, 2021

no play at Old Trafford - Covid / irresponsible outing brings the tour to an end !!

England cricket team tour to  South Africa in Nov 1999 was beset with problems and would be remembered for some other wrong reasons but perhaps many would have made a search on that tour this day !!    

Today, India should have been playing England at Manchester in the Fifth and final test – and there were some Qs :  Will Ashwin play ? – if yes, who would be dropped ?; would India persist with VC Ajinkya Rahane ? – would India rest Bumrah ??  - what could be the result ? – will England bounce back ? – would it be a Series win by India ? – would it be 2-1 or 3-1 ?  .. .. Qs, Qs and more !! 

There is chaos all over !  .. .. and  that has been caused by utterly irresponsible behaviour -  it seems that the BCCI and some sections of the English media are not happy with Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli’s “irresponsible” bio-bubble breach in London.  “Thankfully the nightmare scenario was avoided on Thursday night when it emerged all the players’ PCR tests had come back negative.  India coaches and players were irresponsible to attend a book launch at a London hotel outside their bubble, as revealed by Sportsmail, two days before the fourth Test at the Oval,” the Daily Mail reported.  Ravi Shastri tested positive during the fourth Test at The Oval and has been in isolation since, along with bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and physio Nitin Patel. On Thursday, India’s practice session before the final Test was cancelled after an Indian cricket board official confirmed that second physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.

The Q everyone has been asking is : - whether the Test has been cancelled ? – will it be rescheduled ? – or has it been forfeited.  The answer could have significant impact. If the Test is deemed, by the ICC, to have been called off due to Covid, the game will be treated as abandoned. As a consequence, the series will finish (at least for now) as a 2-1 victory to India. This scenario would also mean the ECB receiving no insurance payout as it is not covered for this eventuality. At present, as the ECB and BCCI sift through the fallout of the Test that never was,  whether the match   will be finished in the 2022 English season, or if a one-off Test will be scheduled to mitigate for the substantial losses incurred by this one.  

Everywhere it is reported that Old Trafford Test – the fifth Test between India and England stands  cancelled on Friday (September 10) amid a chaotic turn of events during 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 Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declared that they will make an effort to reschedule this Test on their next tour of England in 2022.

The development came after the visiting team was left on tenterhooks following physio Yogesh Parmar's positive COVID-19 test that led to concerns that the infection could spread during the match which was cancelled a couple of hours before toss. It is learnt that led by skipper Virat Kohli, who had the biggest apprehension of playing the game, the players, late on Thursday, got into a huddle and couldn't be convinced by the BCCI brass to play the game. The initial statement issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board categorically mentioned the word ‘forfeit’ but that was later omitted from a revised media release.

As of now, India are 2-1 ahead and have not been officially declared winners simply because there could be a chance of the fifth Test being played during the window in July next year when the team visits for a six-match white-ball series. "The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) along with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have jointly decided to call off the 5th Test Match scheduled at Manchester in ongoing India’s tour of England 2021. The BCCI and ECB held several rounds of discussion to find a way to play the Test Match, however, the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian team contingent forced the decision of calling off the Old Trafford Test Match," a BCCI statement read.

It is understood that COVID-19 rule for the World Test Championship matches doesn’t include forfeiture and that’s where Kohli and his men were able to get their way. Under the competition terms of the WTC, COVID-19 is identified as ‘acceptable non-compliance should there be a significant impact of it on the team being able to play’. It could also have meant a 10-day isolation for some of the players, who play in the Indian Premier League. There were many questions that cropped up during the last 12 hours for BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah with a number of factors being taken into account. The Indian and English players were supposed to fly together in a charter flight. Also, deferring the game by a day or two would have caused logistical issues !!

In the game of Cricket,   a declaration occurs when a captain declares his team's innings closed and a forfeiture occurs when a captain chooses to forfeit an innings. Declaration and forfeiture are covered in Law 15 of the Laws of Cricket. This concept applies only to matches in which each team is scheduled to bat in two innings; Law 15 specifically does not apply in any form of limited overs cricket.

Under the current Laws, a captain may forfeit either of their side's innings. A forfeited innings shall be considered as a completed innings.  In August 2020, in a rain-affected match between Durham and Leicestershire in the Bob Willis Trophy, both teams agreed to forfeit an innings in an attempt to produce a result. Here is what MCC rules say : 

15.1 Time of declaration: The captain of the side batting may declare an innings closed, when the ball is dead, at any time during the innings. A declared innings shall be considered to be a completed innings.

15.2 Forfeiture of an innings: A captain may forfeit either of his/her side’s innings at any time before the commencement of that innings.  A forfeited innings shall be considered to be a completed innings.

15.3 Notification: A captain shall notify the opposing captain and the umpires of any decision to declare or to forfeit an innings.  Once notified, the decision cannot be changed.

In that 5th  Test, Centurion, In Jan  2000, the scorecard would read : South Africa- 248/8d & forfeit; England – (target 249)0/0d & 251/8 - England won by 2 wickets!

History was made on the final day when a match apparently reduced to the deadliest of finishes, following three consecutive playless days, was brought back to life by the captains. For the first time in Test cricket, innings were forfeited and this produced a memorable, entertaining climax. When play resumed, with South Africa still in the first innings, the many hundreds of travelling English supporters and a few hundred hardy locals had every reason to expect the worst. What they were treated to was a gripping finale that saw England win with five balls and two wickets remaining.

Five months after the match, however, came the bitterness of deceit when Cronje, South Africa's captain, admitted receiving 53,000 rand (around £5,000) and a leather jacket from a bookmaker, who had urged him to initiate a positive result, rather than let the match peter out as a draw. At the King Commission inquiry into match-fixing, which opened in Cape Town in June, he insisted that his motives were "for the good of cricket", but the fact that financial reward formed a part of his motivation tainted the match for ever. History would also record that it was the first Test in which "fixing" was proven.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
10th Sept. 2021 

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