The Manchester test: The match that wasn’t

An extraordinary couple of days of non-test cricket have just passed us and it has been riveting stuff. We know the back story so there is no mileage in reiterating it. It was confirmed till Thursday afternoon that India would play the Manchester test. However, then came the twist. The Indian team had their own doubts after assistant-physio Yogesh Parmar tested positive. All the team was tested to be negative, so they would play. However, a few Whatsapp messages and conversations later, the doubts crept in. Subsequently, post some more discussion with ECB, there was a decision that the Manchester test will not go ahead, at least not this year.

Bubble life Is not sustainable

If there is one thing everyone can agree on regarding Covid, it is the fact that you cannot simply lock yourself up for months in the same building. With little contact allowed to the outside world keeping your sanity intact is nearly impossible. The bio bubble is not sustainable. This Indian team has been living in the UK for 4 months in hotels, away from all their home comforts. All this long stay with following ever-changing Covid protocols, the UK government decides. The reality is that some members of the team have hardly spent a few weeks in their homes with families since they left for the IPL last year. That is almost a year.

Read More: Team India’s Lessons from LeedsThe Manchester test

If the shoe was on the other foot I cannot see an England team spending 4 months in India and understandably so. The English press and media should refrain from getting on a high horse. Tabloid journalists (@johnsuncricket) have already begun the gossip-mongering about a “Furious England” and callous attitudes of the Indian players. However, no names are mentioned in the article hence its credibility has to be questioned.

All things considered, some players must have had enough. They leave this tour to play in the IPL. From there, a few of them will be in the bubble of the T20 world cup. The scheduling of this final test and the illogically timed world test championship final has meant a 4-month stay for India and a schedule of 5 tests in 6 weeks. It’s bonkers!

The IPL

The big elephant in the room is the IPL and will always be. The IPL is the cash cow everyone loves to bash but everyone knows it’s here and it’s needed. Me included. I’m not the biggest fan of the IPL but it’s decent to watch when there is nothing else on. The games are tight but I would never advocate the cricket is any better than decent. However, it allows players and the game to make money.

Read More: RCB’s Strength and OpportunitiesThe Manchester test

The officials in and around Lancashire say this was their biggest fear once the IPL was shifted to the Emirates. There was a cloud hanging over this test match as within 4 days of its culmination the IPL was due to start. Their concerns have come to fruition. The ECB would have done well to listen to these concerns. The reality of the situation is the BCCI was never going to shift the IPL once they had decided. The slack in the English summer was at the beginning of this series. The ECB didn’t move the Manchester test to the beginning because of the garish 100 competition. In a power struggle between the BCCI and ECB or any board for that matter, the BCCI will win. It’s time the other boards realize this as unpalatable as this might be to them.

The cost of the Manchester Test

The combined financial cost has been estimated to be in the region of £30m for all stakeholders. It’s a huge sum there is no doubt. The ECB says: their insurances cover the refunds to ticket holders. The fans should not be paying out of pocket for the tickets at least. The additional match day revenue lost will probably not be recuperated.

Lancashire county asserts they have lost a large sum as fans will not be visiting and spending money around Manchester. However, this will probably be offset by the arrival of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester; an addition they could not have forecasted. It’s the small vendors and daily agency staff that will lose wages and trade. They will be the ones most affected and of course, my sympathies are with them.

Learnings

The biggest take from this fiasco is: the schedule needs to be prioritized over everything else. A point that we already suggested in The Hundred Value proposition blog. The administrators are asking too much from players, especially from the big 3.

Something urgently needs to be done to strengthen cricket in the other nations. South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies need to come back into the big time. The talent drain from South Africa has to come to an end somehow. West Indies are a decent test side, they need to be promoting test cricket. Pakistan and Sri Lanka still have fanatical support; their administration has to give their fans what they deserve. Franchise cricket also needs to reform itself, with IPL leading the change

What do you think?

What was your learning from the Manchester test? Do share with us in the comments section, or write us on our Twitter or Instagram handles. You can also write me directly at my Twitter handle Nimesh Patel.

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