The crucial fifth and final Test match between England and India has been sensationally called off at the last minute after the visitors refused to play.
Hours before play was set to begin at a sold-out Old Trafford before a crowd of 21,000, the game’s cancellation was announced due to India’s fears about a potential Covid outbreak despite all the players’ latest PCR tests returning negative results.
Four members of the touring party have tested positive this week, with physiotherapist Yogesh Parma testing positive on Wednesday night and joining boss Ravi Shastri and two other members of his staff in isolation.
The Indian players are desperate not to miss out on the lucrative Indian Premier League next week, with the fear of potentially testing positive and missing the tournament driving the side’s withdrawal.
There is now widespread uncertainty and confusion from all sides, with questions regarding compensation, the result of the match, whether and when the match will be rescheduled, and the wider ramifications.
Here Sportsmail has provided some of the answers to the numerous questions thrown up by the news.
The fifth and final Test match between England and India was sensationally called off on Friday
It was called off just hours before the start of play at a sold-out Old Trafford crowd of 21,000
Why have India refused to play if not a single player has tested positive?
It appears it is because they are fearful of testing positive in subsequent Covid tests, which would then force individuals into isolation rather than allow them to fly to Dubai as scheduled next Wednesday.
India’s players are desperate not to miss the resumption of the lucrative Indian Premier League in the UAE from September 19.
It seems they took the precaution of cancelling their pre-match training session and isolating in their hotel rooms to this end.
India have pulled out due to fears about a potential outbreak of coronavirus in their camp
After a fourth member of India’s staff tested positive, the players were confined to their hotel
At what point did BCCI tell the ECB the match was off?
Confirmation came shortly after 7.30am, although Sportsmail understands that correspondence from India’s senior players, in which they stated they did not want the game to go ahead, was received approaching midnight on Thursday.
A group of senior Indian players delivered a letter to ECB officials saying they would refuse to take the field today because of Covid concerns
Is the series now 2-1 or a forfeit?
That was being debated this morning, with the BCCI offering to replay the Test at a later date – most likely next summer.
India are here for two white-ball series in July 2022 and the proposal is to finish the series then. Whether the ICC will accept this remains to be seen.
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 this morning were that they would do precisely that.
English officials were insisting that India had forfeited the game, and pushing for a 2-2 series result.
The ECB are also arguing that the forfeiture is not related to Covid, since all the Indian players have returned negative PCR tests.
England Cricket’s Twitter confirmed the shock news that the Test had been cancelled
The stands at Old Trafford will remain empty today despite all tickets being sold out
Stewards were the only people present at Old Trafford on Friday morning after the news broke
Who will pay the fans back?
The ECB will refund all ticket holders as part of their ticketing policy.
Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney said: ‘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.’
Whether the ECB or the BCCI ultimately foots the bill is now one of the burning issues.
The ECB insurance for matches no longer covers Covid-related cancellations. They will argue that, technically, India’s withdrawal was not due to a Covid issue but for fear of one developing. A forfeiture would surely have led to India being asked for compensation.
Sure to come into play is Sportsmail’s revelation 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.
The ECB were already fuming about a decision which, they believed, jeopardised the Manchester Test, and this morning there were suggestions that members of the touring party were seen out and about in Manchester yesterday – despite promises from the BCCI after the book-launch controversy that they would tighten their protocols ahead of the fifth Test.
The news comes after India head coach Ravi Shastri tested positive for the virus on Sunday
Will the ECB have to refund Sky Sports and other rights holders?
Yes. Although, not if the match is re-scheduled as per the BCCI’s proposal.
Around £40million is at stake due to broadcast deals and with upwards of £10m linked to ticketing, hospitality, food and drink costs.
England’s players had been training without knowing whether play will go ahead this week
England coach Chris Silverwood (left) and captain Joe Root have been left stranded