Mr Average Man may perhaps be excused for feeling completely bewildered after the cancellation of the fifth India-England Test at Old Trafford when India, as officially stated, couldn’t field a team as their players were petrified of coronavirus infections in the wake of some of the team’s support staff testing positive.
Sourav Ganguly, as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has since spoken of the cricketers’ apprehensions, expressed sympathy and repudiated widespread suggestions that the magnet that pulled them away was the Indian Premier League’s impending resumption in West Asia, after it was put in suspended animation at home following a scary spate of infections within the tournament’s putatively impermeable bio-secure bubble.
The point about Ganguly’s denial, frankly speaking, is that few people seem inclined to endorse it wholeheartedly with the English media lining up an impressive constellation of cricketing personalities quite unambiguous in their assertion that it was the lure of IPL lucre that threw the decisive Test of a five-match series ~ with India 2-1 ahead ~ into confusion allegedly 90 minutes before the toss.
The midnight oil might have been burnt poring over ~ going by David Gower’s charge ~ Virat Kohli’s SOS, when, somewhat surprisingly, officialdom failed to remind itself that all the Indian cricketers had tested negative. The role, if any, of the franchises is conveniently left out of the chinwagging.
And the IPL was only days away. No one wants to miss a bit of it for reasons you don’t need an Isaac Newton to analyse. The Test thus ceased to be the priority of the momemt, or so they say. Neither is it forgottten that India had never really wanted to play a fifth Test this time around ~ regardless of which was the series could be headed ~ as they knew of the IPL’s uncomfortable proximity. If India had kept badgering the England and Wales Cricket Board about it, the ECB held firm as it knew which side its bread was buttered.
If the Empire can strike back, it can hold its own too. But the ECB will be flexibility itself when it comes to fixing the fate of the aborted match, having already shuffled back from claiming an Indian forfeiture, officially discounted the IPL angle and, allegedly, played an understated part in making it easy for Ravi Shastri to hold the book launch where he is said to have contracted the coronavirus.
All boards that let their players go into the Indian Twenty20 tournament fill their pockets gleefully. The BCCI has it all wrapped up. Which is why it will get its way all right when the series’ outcome comes to be taken up, and it has richly rewarded luminaries to pound its drum.