You can stop short of all-out cynicism and still accept that the threshold for binning the Old Trafford Test was lower than normal

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Have you ever agreed to go to a thing and secretly not really wanted to go to the thing? Maybe it was a thing you’d ordinarily enjoy – like a meal out with a friend – only you also had a whole bunch of other stuff on that week and so it started to feel like an extra hassle. Maybe you fully intended to go anyway and then one of the kids got a bit sick. You could probably have found a way to avoid cancelling, but…

Sometimes people don’t plan to let you down. Sometimes their intentions are good, but they’re… well, not looking for an excuse exactly. Let’s just say they’re a little more excuse aware.

With regards to the cancellation – sorry, postponement – of the Old Trafford Test, it’s easy to pick your own dots and join them together to create a picture. It’s easy to get caught up in all the finger pointing and isn’t it convenient thats that are blowing around right now.

We’d argue that binning the match almost certainly wasn’t a nefarious long-term plan on the part of the BCCI. We’d also add that doesn’t mean the bar for sacking it off wasn’t a good deal lower than for your average fixture.

We had pretty good warning that the fifth Test wasn’t India’s favourite appointment after all. In fact we explicitly asked whether the match would actually be played all the way back in May.

The motivations for not playing the match outlined in that article – chiefly the desire to get everyone in place in good time for the resumption of the IPL – didn’t go away. They continued to apply and if they weren’t enough to do away with the match under normal circumstances, they brought the threshold for doing so a good deal nearer. It’s not like the Old Trafford Test was an outright impediment. It’s more that life became simpler without it.

Whether this perception of the match influenced Ravi Shastri’s laissez faire attitude to Covid regulations at his book launch, only he can say. Maybe it was just that general, everyday Shastri sense of untouchability. Or maybe a long, hitherto unaffected tour had seen measures gradually erode all round as more and more people on both sides skirted the edges of what was permitted. (Strikes us that the less strict the rules, the less it seems like a big deal to break them.)

You can imagine players’ complacency vanishing in an instant though at the news they’d been in contact with people who’d tested positive. Imagine for a second being part of a large group who’ve all travelled together for months and are really starting to feel aware of that. Imagine hearing The Virus had infiltrated the camp and then everyone catastrophising to each other and fanning the flames.

We’ve probably all found ourselves in a similar sort of position at some point in the last year or so. People do get jittery and if you put a lot of jittery people together with no-one to temper that, the mood can escalate pretty quickly. Families are present and the players are also weighing up the rest of their years against the very final fixture of a pretty gruelling tour.

So maybe it’s not “all about the IPL” and maybe it’s not “all about money”. Maybe it’s a load of different people and a load of different factors and a tipping point.

We’d argue that India wanted to play the fifth Test. It’s just that when it’s the last match and there’s a virus in the air and a load of other competitions to come and you’re tired and worried and, yes, already 2-1 up. Maybe then you look at the situation and say wouldn’t it be easier if we maybe called it a day and maybe just didn’t play this particular game.

Unfortunately, this growing half-heartedness gave rise to what ended up a last minute cancellation. That is a pretty shitty thing and those who were planning to attend should feel entitled to adopt the Bluth family motto: “Forget, but never forgive.”

The rest of us can maybe take a step back and survey the summer as a whole. There was an awful lot of international cricket this year – almost certainly more than you expected – and an awful lot of it was extremely good. Things have been worse.

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16 comments

  1. Fair enough (particularly your last paragraph), but I am not letting them off the hook so easy. (Not that it matters a bit though). Last year player after player after player was leaving the IPL having tested positive and/or just shit scared. The competition continued till the point when it was absolutely impossible to continue with it, what with public perception turning against the competition and the government regulations. So given that scenario, I find it absolutely unacceptable that one positive test engineered this response. Particularly given that all Indian players have tested negative. (Perhaps I am being a little callous here, but I am still pissed).

    1. That does represent thought provoking context. You might argue that it seems less of a thing to duck out of one match than two thirds of a tournament, but we’re just playing devil’s advocate really. For the board at least, priorities correlate with financial value.

    2. I’d argue for a more sympathetic view for the players. When you’ve been in close physical contact with a COVID positive person and are therefore at high risk of getting it yourself (the tests did come back negative but with the incubation period it’s quite possible enough time had not elapsed for the results to show), it seems reasonable to refuse to play.

      The players would probably have been entitled to call it off after shastri tested positive, and because they didn’t we got a cracker of a fourth test. The IPL and the fatigue were probably a factor as well, but whether or not those factors existed, it still seems harsh to demand that they play a five day contest when there’s a very active and real risk of having contracted covid

  2. The bit you failed to mention was that I only had one test match ticket this summer, and it was for Day 1 at Old Trafford. And my mate was on the train from London when the match was cancelled.

    That’s the big problem with this Indian team – their absolute lack of consideration for me and my mate. It’s almost as if they didn’t know I was planning to go (yeh, right). The only (and I mean only) saving grace is that staying within the match report rules will be very easy.

  3. Pakistan coaching team for the World T20 is …. interesting?

    I guess we don’t know the head coach yet but when reading a headline that starts ‘Matthew Hayden and Vernon Philander…’ my brain didn’t exactly autocomplete ‘…to coach Pakistan’

    1. We’ve already said this on Twitter, but even when you don’t agree with George on something, you can trust him to report fairly and to provide balance. His comment about ‘different journalistic values’ doesn’t therefore reflect well on Cricinfo. (Open to interpretation though. He hasn’t actually said how, specifically, he disagrees with them.)

    2. cricbuzz does ball-by-ball for a lot of games, not only international ones, I think, but also T20s. It’s pretty useful, but it only has international and IPL stats for players, which can be convenient, of course, on the one occasion you’re interested in some aspect of someone’s IPL stats.

      1. Cheers. I had a look at Cricbuzz: it looks even more cluttered than Cricinfo, and probably more India-focussed. (The odds of me wanting to check on anything related to the Ipple are pretty low.) Still, might give it a try for the next international game that I’m interested in!

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