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India vs England: What transpired before fifth and final Test was cancelled

A COVID-positive report, RT-PCR tests, team meetings and board negotiations, here is a timeline of what took place in the 24 hours before the Manchester Test was cancelled.

Wednesday evening: The Indian team arrives in Manchester for the fifth Test and an RT-PCR test is conducted on each player. Assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar is part of the team conducting the tests.

Thursday, around 10 am (BST): The players are informed on WhatsApp that a member of the contingent has tested positive, later revealed to be Parmar. Team manager Girish Dongre informs Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah. Parmar’s test result comes four days after head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar returned positive and were isolated at The Oval, venue of the fourth Test. Team physio Nitin Patel was also in isolation but was allowed to travel with the team to Manchester after three negative reports.

Around 11 am: Seniors in the team request Shah to inform the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) that the players don’t want to play with the risk of becoming Covid-19 carriers. Shah has a video chat with captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.

Around 12 noon: The team management decides not to have practice on the eve of the fifth Test and players are advised not to meet anyone and stay in their rooms till further notice. The BCCI begins negotiations with the ECB and informs its stand of not wanting to play. ECB insists on pushing the game back by two days and completing the five-Test series. It also offers other options to the BCCI.

Around 6 pm: Each player is apprised of the situation in a team meeting. The seniors maintain that several of them don’t want to play with the fear of contracting the infection, as physio Parmar has had close contact with most of the players and treated them in the last few days. The team doesn’t want to affect their participation in the upcoming Indian Premier League as well as the T20 World Cup in any way. A few members are worried about their families. Players are informed that the BCCI is having back-channel discussions to sort the issue out.

Around 9 pm: Another RT-PCR Test is conducted on each individual (all results negative). Players are not informed whether the game will be played on Friday despite some asking about the situation. Shah continues to hold talks with the ECB, where all options are discussed. The Indian board maintains that players’ safety is paramount, and says that BCCI too had to incur a loss during the five-match T20I series against England in March when fans were barred for the last three games in Ahmedabad due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Friday morning: A video call takes place between Shah, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, Kohli, Sharma and Rahane. The players inform that they are on the same page and mention that England too had called off their South Africa tour last year midway due to Covid concerns and the BCCI can do the same. The players don’t mind playing the fifth Test at a later time. BCCI assures that the decision will be taken in the best interest of the board and everyone.

1:15 pm (IST): The ECB issues a statement saying India was “unable to field a team and will instead forfeit the match”, but later modified the press release to say that the fifth Test is cancelled. This is followed by a joint press release by BCCI and ECB which states that the game will be played at a later date.

2 pm: Via a WhatsApp group message players are informed that the match has been called off and they will have to come to the restaurant as the BCCI cannot arrange breakfast in their rooms.

3 pm: Players are told that they have to be under isolation as BCCI is planning a flight to Dubai for the IPL.

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