Who Disrupted the 5th Test at the Old Trafford – Covid-19 fear or IPL?

The recent bilateral series between India and England has been stalled over a fear of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian camp after several members of the team caught the Covid-19 disease before the test was played. The declaration came just two hours before play as the deputy physio was reported to be Covid-19 positive the night before the match was played.

Earlier, the head coach Ravi Shastri, the bowling coach Bharat Arun and the fielding coach R Shridhar had contracted the virus. Many blame attending Ravi Shastri’s book launch in London before the 4th test as the main culprit behind breaching the bio-bubble. It was still bearable to the playing XI until both their physio turned out Covid-19 positive. The Indian players refused to take the field, although the players still tested negative, resulting in the match being rescheduled.

The England Cricket Board (ECB) refused to reschedule the match. The Indian cricket team has a tight schedule ahead, with the IPL starting 2 days after the conclusion of the scheduled 5th test. Hence postponing the match by 1-2 days was not possible. After the conclusion of the IPL, the T20 world cup is scheduled, making it impossible to be rescheduled anytime soon. ECB has made it clear that in no way can the rescheduling take place, and if the match does happen in the future, it will be a standalone test. ECB also concluded that India had forfeited the match, and hence England was declared winner of the match.

The IPL could have been played without a few Indian players at the start, but it is alleged that the absence of star players in the IPL would result in a sharp drop in popularity. Hence, BCCI is taking no chance to delay the IPL further or do away with a few star players. The second leg of IPL 2021 is scheduled to begin on 19th September in the UAE. As for how the India-England bilateral test series would conclude, the officials are yet to have an answer.

Written by – Himadri Paul

ICC T20 Cricket World Cup to Shift from India

The covid-19 pandemic situation in the entire world forced ICC and cricket boards of different countries to cancel or postpone many tours and tournaments. One big tournament that was postponed was the T20 Cricket World Cup that was to be held in Australia in December 2020. Last year in August 2020, ICC confirmed that India would host the T20 world cup in 2021. Sri Lanka and UAE were also chosen as backups if India was unable to host the World Cup. As the second wave of Covid-19 started in India, it was expected that the backup plans were soon to be implemented.

Amid a severe oxygen crisis in India in April 2021, ICC’s CEO, Geoff Allardice, confirmed that backup plans were still in place and implemented if India is unable to host the 2021 world cup. Lately, ICC is looking at UAE as the best and safest alternative. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell also commented that India should not host the 2021 Cricket World Cup when looking at the current situation. However, as late as 17th April 2021, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) has gone ahead to host the 2021 World Cup by listing nine venues for cricket matches. Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Dharamsala are chosen as the venues, with Mumbai and Kolkata selected to host the semi-final and Ahmedabad to host the final. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ahmedabad cricket stadium was rebuild and launched as Narendra Modi stadium with the highest seat capacity in the world of more than 1 lakh seats. The stadium holds its first match on 24th February 2021, the 3rd test match between England and India that India had won. It organized its first t20i match on 12th March, 2021. It is also one of the venues of IPL matches played in bio-bubble and without any spectators.

At a time when the country is recording more than 3.5 lakh Covid-19 cases a day with more than 2800 people injured, the focus of the country should now be on how to save people, how to make more and more vaccines in a short period, and how to fix the oxygen crisis in various states. It is not the time the country’s resources should be utilized for hosting world cup tournaments. ICC should look for UAE or even Sri Lanka, which are much less affected by the pandemic. Both UAE and Sri Lanka are ready to host the 2021 Cricket T20 World Cup and have not provided travel restrictions to any country. India had already organized a T20 world cup in 2016, so nothing is disheartening for the Indian fans if the world cup is shifted somewhere else this year.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Importance of More Day-Night Test Cricket

Test cricket is perhaps the most dreaded form of cricket that young minds want to see. This is the era of franchise cricket like the IPL, which is a t20 cricket tournament. t20 cricket has gained so much momentum that the original form of cricket, the Test cricket is slowly but steadily forgotten by the young generation. In these days, people hardly have time to watch cricket all day, but still, people are able to get quite a lot of time to watch back-to-back IPL matches or franchise football matches.

Hence it can be said that test cricket only needs more attention from the fans of cricket. Many true cricket lovers know the importance of test cricket, but they form a tiny fraction of the cricket fans. To make test cricket more attractive, we need something out of the box. And that is just what ICC have been looking for.

One of the best moves by ICC towards test cricket in modern times is the introduction of day and night test matches. Of course, allowing some non-test playing nations like Ireland and Afghanistan for playing test cricket no doubt raises popularity of test cricket in those nations. However, day and night test or the pink ball test cricket has changed the way people has so far viewed test cricket.

27th November 2015 marked the beginning of the first day and night test match between Australia and New Zealand, played at the Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia. It was played with a pink ball, as the red ball, traditionally used for test cricket is not visible clearly under the lights at night. Also, the break timings were changed and there is a 20 min tea-break followed by a 40 min dinner-break.

More than the day and night version of test cricket, the pink ball was the star attraction of the test match, and hence, day-night test matches were more often nicknamed pink-ball tests. The pink ball attracted a huge crowd to the first day-night tests and continued to attract more people to date. Pink balls were manufactured almost overnight after the declaration of a test match to be day and night.

In the India-Bangladesh pink-ball test, for the first time, hand-sewn SC balls were manufactured by the SC factory, the supplier of test cricket balls in India, in an unbelievably short time as it was decided much later that the test match is to be day and night. It was the first time hand-made pink balls were used instead of machine-made Kookaburra balls. Now every country wants to host one of the tour matches as a day-night test. Attendance has been seen to shoot up by a huge margin at the day-night tests.

The main success of pink ball tests is due to publicity. Whenever something new turns up, everyone, including less interested ones, becomes interested to know about the new thing which is getting so much publicity. Test cricket has been one of them. Big stadiums, like Adelaide Oval, Eden Gardens, have been packed by the spectators turning up from nearby as well as far-off places to witness what is been depicted as a historic event.

Apart from publicity, non-cricket lovers are drawn by the presence of cultural programmes, presence of eminent personalities, short documentations, to make the advent of a new era of test cricket. No doubt pink ball test is historic, but what is more historic about it is the popularity among the young generation, who mostly loves t20 cricket.

Over time, we have seen so many great test matches being played and also matches between arch-rivals. That is why, even today, we find so many keen and regular watchers of test cricket. The only thing that needs to be changed is the mindset of the young generation, who thinks that test cricket is a slow-paced game where draw is usually the outcome after 5 days of play. Drawing a test match is as interesting as winning it, will be embraced by the young generation once they regularly see test matches, the true test of who is the better player.

Written by – Himadri Paul