Tom Harrison, speaking on the BBC’s Test Match Special broadcast, has tried to allay the concern of many fans over the IPL’s influence on the cancellation of the fifth Test match against England at Old Trafford. The game was cancelled on Friday morning, just hours before it was set to begin, after India’s physio tested positive the evening previous and fears over more cases, despite all players testing negative, meant the visitors could not field a team.
Harrison, the ECB chief executive, stated that this was an issue of mental health. He mentioned that India’s players had been in England “for a long time”, and that life in their bubble and playing elite sport is “different”. He suggested that COVID’s infiltration into the camp had exacerbated these problems, making everything “accelerate very quickly”. Many are worried that the IPL, due to begin just days after the scheduled fifth day of the Old Trafford Test, was the root cause of the decision.
“I don’t think the IPL should worry people who feel there is an agenda at place here”, Harrison said, stating that the BCCI were just as keen to play this match as England and the ECB in order to continue to “make their mark in Test cricket”. These are tricky declarations to believe, given that many of India’s players will immediately play in the world’s bumper T20 competition rather than giving themselves the break that mental exhaustion demands.
Harrison did not provide any further information on the specifics of the result of the Test match. After initially stating the game had been “forfeited” by India, ending the series at 2-2, an ECB statement changed its tune to inform of its “cancellation”, implying a 2-1 series win for India. According to the ECB chief, the decision is “for the ICC in the context of the World Test Championship”, and not of great concern to the board themselves.