After all the drama leading up to the final Test match in the five-match series between England and India, the Manchester clash was finally suspended just hours before it was due to start.
The final Test was put on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19 concerns, which began when India head coach Ravi Shastri tested positive and, when the assistant physio Yogesh Parmar also tested positive, the Indian players put their foot down and said it would be risky to play as Parmar had treated a few players and was in close contact with the players in the lead up to the Manchester Test.
The ECB wants the status of the match to be forfeited by India or — in layman’s language — a walkover to England so the series ends in a 2-2 draw and the ECB can insurance payouts.
The BCCI wants the match rescheduled in 2022, which looks highly doubtful unless India can convince the English board and finish off the series.
Being a cricket fan, the point I want to drive here is that if the Test had happened, which team would have been in the driver’s seat? I believe it would be India for many reasons. First and foremost, they had the edge over England by winning the last Test at Oval and had a physiological advantage of leading in the series. Secondly most of the leading English pace bowlers were tired, especially James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, who had bowled almost 50 overs each in the fourth Test match and looked exhausted by the end of the action. There was just a gap of three days before the Manchester showdown and it would have been difficult for both their main bowlers to come to the party. Also most of the English batsman looked out of form and their confidence would have been quite low.
The Indian hitters, especially Rohit Sharma after scoring a match-winning hundred, and KL Rahul both looked in good touch. Even Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant had come in to form. Moreover, Shardul Thakur had proved a great asset with back-to-back fifties in the last game. The India bowlers were much fresher compared to their English counterparts. India would have rested Jasprit Bumrah and got back Mohammed Shami and also could have picked Ravichandran Ashwin for Jadeja, who had some niggles. Over all India had all their bases covered.
Moreover, the weather forecast was the last Test at Manchester looked gloomy with rain forecast on at least three days. This would have been India’s best chance to go back home with a series win and enhanced Kohli’s Test series record. It would also have given India crucial points for the ICC World Test Championship. India have not won a series in England since 2006 and had lost three back-to-back since.
The status of the series says India lead 2-1, but if the ICC decide that India forfeit, it would rob India and Virat of winning a high-profile series in England. SO we await the ICC verdict, but this was India’s golden opportunity to come back home with the prestigious Pataudi Trophy.