The fifth and final cricket test between England and India at Old Trafford has been called off by the visitors due to Covid-19, barely an hour before play was due to start.
The Indian team got the all clear after PCR tests the day earlier – but players dug their heels in about refusing to play after coming into close contact with physio Yogesh Parmar, who tested positive.
India’s entire touring party were forced to isolate in its Manchester hotel after assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar was the latest person to test positive for the virus. India coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharath Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and main physio Nitin Patel had already tested positive.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said India is “regrettably unable to field a team” at Old Trafford in Manchester due to fears of more cases inside the group.
The ECB are understood to be deeply frustrated about the decision, which denies fans a finale to a topsy-turvy series which India lead 2-1.
The Telegraph reported there is anger within the ECB about how the first positive Covid tests within the India squad occurred. Head coach Ravi Shastri, who tested positive last week and was forced to miss part of the fourth test and the whole of the scheduled fifth test, attended a busy book launch at a London hotel the previous week.
The Indians did not seek, nor obtain, dispensation from the ECB to attend the event. England’s cricketers had been instructed to refrain from attending any public events, or any situations where they might be put in close contact with those outside the squad and support staff.
Shastri, alongside India captain Virat Kohli and other playing members of the squad, attended the book launch at St James’ Court hotel in London in the days leading up to the Oval Test. None of India’s players tested positive but four members of India’s backroom staff since did. The event was attended by members of the public, without masks or other PPE equipment and without any social distancing with the India players.
An initial statement from English cricket’s governing body said: “India are unable to field a team and will instead regrettably forfeit the match.”
However, the mention of a forfeit was subsequently removed, meaning that the official result of the five-match series is unclear. One option is to play the final test match next year, when India return to England for white-ball cricket.
“We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many,” the ECB said.
IPL insiders have told the Telegraph that the test has been cancelled in order not to jeopardise India players’ participation in the lucrative T20 tournament, which resumes on September 19 in the UAE.
The cancellation of the final Test will cost English cricket in the region of $40 million.
– Telegraph Sport
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