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Opinion

The ICC need to sort out their priorities after the cancelled England-India Test

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Roar Guru
13th September, 2021
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Over the years I’ve found most issues can be sorted out at the pub, with a few mates and the odd cleansing ale.

Nowadays some prefer more exotic drinks, but I prefer tap beer, which gives good clarity of thought – for a while anyway.

I was keen to explore what options were the best for both England and India following the cancellation of the fifth Test. I had help from a few mates who are expats from the Old Dart, but are real good blokes because they love their cricket.

They were still stunned a couple of days later, which is not surprising. My interest in the game was purely as a lover of good Test cricket and I was bitterly disappointed, so I can only imagine what supporters of England and India must have felt and are likely still feeling.

They were saying there was so much local interest. Old Trafford, which seats 22,000 for cricket matches, was sold out for the first three days and organisers had sold another 13,000 tickets for Day 4.

England and New Zealand cricket fans

(Photo by Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

The one thing we agreed not to discuss was the rights and wrongs about the decision not to play this Test. We’d done that issue to death the day before and reached the biased conclusion the game should have been played or forfeited – but agreed we didn’t have enough accurate information to know why this call was made.

This piece is a summary of the options we thought were both available and the most palatable to all parties.

The first and most obvious is to simply do nothing and leave this last match as a cancelled Test. I’m presuming this would mean the other results in the series would stand, thus leaving India the series victors.

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I didn’t think this was a great option and neither did my English mates. There’s no doubt the ECB would also have issues with this, unless they received substantial monetary compensation, to cover the costs of the broadcast that didn’t happen, as well as the pre-match sales they had to refund, plus the set-up costs.

Another option is similar to the first and that is to still not play the Test but work out an arrangement to cover costs, pay the players a share of the Test prize pool as well as an equitable split of World Test Championship points.

Supporters would still be disappointed, but the players would not miss out and neither side would be overly disadvantaged because this Test was not played.

The caveat that could make this option work is to declare the series a no result and award WTC points only. In fairness to India, we had doubts Virat Kohli and his men would be thrilled with that option because they had their noses in front. Theirs would be a moral victory, but the record books would not show that.

Rishabh Pant and Virat Kohli of India celebrate the final wicket and winning the Second LV= Insurance Test Match

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The final option, which we discussed at length, is the offer from the BCCI to play the final Test at a later time. On the surface of it, this is a viable option but this is still not straight forward.

The cricket calendar for both teams is packed over the next six to 12 months. In an ideal world, this match could have been postponed for a few days, or even a week, then played once the COVID all-clear had been given.

It’s common knowledge the IPL is re-starting later this month and it’s also well known the Indian board is desperate for this tournament to be completed, so that kills off any short-term solutions.

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The T20 World Cup and the Ashes following on a month later means England is committed until after Christmas, as is India with a series against the Test number one, New Zealand.

Both nations have a full schedule until they meet for a white-ball tour in July next year and this is when India’s board is suggesting they play a one-off Test.

This could be attractive to England because in the weeks before the Indian visit, they play a three-Test series against New Zealand in England.

That would give them a distinct advantage over India, who play Tests against Sri Lanka in February or March, then the IPL, so most of their Test players won’t have played any red-ball cricket for months before they get to England.

How would the two teams match up if a Test were to be played in July next year?

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Part of the enjoyment of watching this series has been how well an under-strength England team has battled with a near full-strength Indian side.

If England had everyone available in July 2022, who are currently out through injury, their side could be:
Haseeb Hameed
Rory Burns
Dawid Malan
Joe Root
Ben Stokes
Ollie Pope
Jos Buttler/Jonny Bairstow
Moeen Ali
Jofra Archer
Ollie Robinson
Stuart Broad/Chris Woakes/Mark Wood
James Anderson

England batsman Joe Root reacts after being dismissed

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

This is a far stronger batting unit with Stokes’ inclusion and the attack would also improve with both he and Archer back in the team.

The only change India might make is to include Shubman Gill somewhere in their order, perhaps at the expense of Ajinkya Rahane.

The cricket downside is the imponderables. Will Stuart Broad and James Anderson retire by then? Will Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer come back as good as they have been? Will Joe Root maintain his outrageously good form?

One suggestion was for the ECB to canvas the public and get their thoughts on what options they’d like to see happen?

In the first instance, maybe they could reach out to people who held tickets for the cancelled game, just to gauge whether they’d want a Test in July 2022, for a series that should have been completed in September 2021.

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We came to the following conclusions, just before the footy started.

1. It seems there are going to be no winners in this instance, other than a nasty virus that has once again caused significant problems to sport.

2. A clear lesson should have been learnt by the ICC and that is they need to sort out their priorities. The scheduling for the IPL straight after the England/India series and before the World Cup was always going to be tight, but the elephant in the room got its way and the knock-on effect has been enormous to English cricket.

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3. What must have been an eye-opener to all is the reaction of cricket fans who have been engrossed in the Test series. Many supposed experts have previously suggested Test cricket is dying out, fans aren’t interested any more, and the future of the game is white-ball cricket.

If our discussions over the past few weeks is any indication, Test cricket is very much alive and well.

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