Diverse views on cancelling the Old Trafford Test match; Gavaskar welcomes BCCI's offer

AgenciesUpdated: Saturday, September 11, 2021, 11:30 PM IST
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Manchester: The legendary Sunil Gavaskar has lauded the BCCI's offer of rescheduling the cancelled Old Trafford Test, saying India should never forget England's gesture of returning back to complete a tour, which was halted midway due to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

The fifth Test between India and England here was called-off hours before its start on Friday after a COVID-19 outbreak in the visiting team's camp which made the Indian players reluctant to play fearing a positive result might lead to 10-day isolation and scheduling nightmare of Indian Premier League.

Both the BCCI and England Cricket Board (ECB) officials later announced that the match will be rescheduled at a later date as a one-off game, but the decision is yet to be made official.

"Yes, I think that (rescheduling the cancelled Test) would be the correct thing to do. Look, we, in India, should never forget what the England team did in 2008 after the horrific attack, the 26/11.

They came back," Gavaskar told official broadcaster of the series Sony Sports.

"They would have been perfectly entitled to say 'we don't feel safe. We are not coming back'."

The visiting England team was playing an ODI against India in Cuttack on November 26 when terrorists attacked Mumbai, leading to the cancellation of the last two ODIs of the seven-match series.

England headed home immediately, but later returned for the two Test series which India won 1-0.

Gavaskar said that the then skipper Kevin Pietersen was instrumental in England's decision to return back for the Test matches.

"Never forget that Kevin Pietersen led the team, and he was the main man. If KP had said, no I don't want to go, that would have been the end of the matter.

"It was because KP was willing to go and he convinced the others, the team came and we had that fantastic Test match in Chennai where India chased 380 to win on the last day," the batting great said.

Gavaskar termed BCCI's rescheduling offer as a "fantastic news" and said the cancelled Test can be held next year after the Indian Premier League.

"Don't forget, the gesture of the ECB has to be remembered," he said.

"It's absolutely apt that the BCCI now says, right next year, we are still coming to England. I think there will be a little lean period. I think the IPL will finish in early June. So there is enough time for them to go a few days early, depending on whether we still have Covid and all the restrictions and maybe play a Test match before or after," Gavaskar said.

"This is fantastic news coming that the BCCi will make up for it. This is exactly what the relations between boards should be."

It would be a hollow game of cricket: Vaughan

Manchester: Former England captain Michael Vaughan is of the opinion that a rescheduled Test between England and India would be a hollow game of cricket, terming the idea as ridiculous.

Vaughan's comments come after the fifth Test between the two teams was cancelled on Friday due to fears of COVID-19 cases increasing inside the Indian camp. The BCCI, in its statement, talked about an offer made to reschedule the cancelled Test.

"A rescheduled Test match next year would be ridiculous. It would be a hollow game of cricket.

The reason why Test cricket is great is because a five match series takes place over the course of six weeks. You sweat, blood and tears to win. The emotions and adrenaline that go into that are why it is the hardest form of the game," wrote Vaughan in his column for The Telegraph on Saturday.

"The players would have tossed and turned worrying about how they were going to score runs or take wickets in this match. To think you can come back for a one Test next year and it be the same is simply ridiculous. It will just be a game to fulfil a television contract. It will be meaningless. This series is over," added Vaughan.

Vaughan believed that England players will be blaming India for flexing its muscles.

"England will be spewing. The players will be blaming India for flexing their muscles. But there is a food chain in world cricket. India are at the top. Their administrators know it, and the players even more so.

But England are more powerful than South Africa and that is why they flexed their muscles last year. Australia are also more powerful than South Africa so when they saw England pull out of that one-day series they felt able to cancel their tour."

The 46-year-old commentator sympathised with the players in bio-bubble but felt that protocols were relaxed in the past few weeks.

But all of a sudden, a week before the IPL, they have decided it is too much to play a Test match. It is just people using their power and it is the cricket supporter who suffers."

Vaughan said the cancellation was not about boards or administrators, it was about the players making a decision.

"This is not about boards or administrators. This is players making the calls. Administrators always want games to happen. They have sold broadcast and commercial deals as well as thousands of tickets.

The elephant in the room is the IPL

London: Former England skipper Nasser Hussain put the blame for the cancellation of the fifth Test between Indian and England at Old Trafford to cricket's relentless scheduling, adding that the packed schedule and the elephant in the room that is the Indian Premier League had created the mess.

After several conference calls and feverish attempts by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to find a solution, the Test was called off because the Indian players refused to play.

Captain Virat Kohli is said to have conveyed on behalf of the Indian cricketers that an infection could show up in the next couple of days among the tourists, as the negative Covid-19 test results on the eve of the match were not a guarantee of an infection not germinating.

But BBC cricket correspondent and former cricketer Jonathan Agnew had reported on Friday that India refused to play so as to protect the unfinished IPL, which is scheduled to resume in the UAE from September 19.

The league is worth crores of rupees to some of the Indian players and thousands of crores of rupees to the BCCI.

In his column for the Daily Mail, Hussain wrote on Saturday, 'Sure, they (spectators) 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," said Hussain.

Hussain said that the IPL was non-negotiable for the Indian cricket board, adding that the BCCI was not too happy about the positioning of the fifth Test close to the IPL, which is being held in the United Arab Emirates.

"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."

In fact, Tom Harrison, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ECB has said that England and India facing each other in a rescheduled Test will be a stand-alone situation.

"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," added Hussain.

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