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England v India

‘This is the beginning of the end for Test cricket’ – Steve Harmison on Manchester cancellation

by Ben Gardner 3 minute read

Steve Harmison, speaking on talkSPORT, has explained how, in his opinion, the Indian Premier League, not COVID-19, is responsible for the cancellation of the fifth England-India Test at Old Trafford.

The game was called off on the morning it was supposed to begin, with several members of India’s support staff testing positive for COVID-19 in the days prior. With none of India’s playing squad having tested positive as yet, speculation has raged over the possible motives behind the decision, which was reportedly driven by India’s players.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has insisted that “this is not a COVID cancellation”, citing instead the mental wellbeing of India’s players, with Dinesh Karthik offering the alternative view.

Harmison has now put forward his theory, that the second half of the 2021 IPL, itself postponed earlier this year after a COVID outbreak, is the real reason for the decision. The competition is set to resume on Friday, September 18, with the majority of India’s players also filling key roles in that tournament.g

“This is all about the IPL,” Harmison said. “End of. As much as I’d want to sugar coat it, I don’t think I can. The IPL starts in five days, and a month before the tour started India asked if they could move the last Test match forward or clear four days so they can fit the IPL in. All of a sudden this happens. It doesn’t sit well with me and I feel so sorry for the people of Manchester.

“We don’t know the full facts, but when teams are pulling out like that, two hours before the match, this is down to players saying, ‘if we contract COVID now we have to stay here for ten days and the IPL is starting’. It’s a short window there and money makes the world go round, but there’s a point where integrity comes into it. For me, this is India flexing their muscles and saying, ‘we’re not interested in playing – my bat, my ball, see you later’.”

Harmison acknowledged that England themselves have taken similar decisions in the past, choosing to forgo an ODI series in South Africa after members of the hosts’ camp tested positive for COVID-19.

“Let’s be fair before we start throwing stones, England did it to South Africa. Let’s get that straight from the very start,” he said. “We’re not the totally innocent party in this because we came home when we didn’t know what was going on.”

He expressed his fear that the longest format might not recover from the debacle.

“It’s rubbish, it really is,” he said. “My initial thoughts are that this is the beginning of the end for Test cricket. When you’re choosing to go down this road, that’s it done.”

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