India coach called out over $56 billion Test cricket 'disgrace'

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Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli, pictured here at the book launch.
Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli were in attendance at the book launch. Image: Getty/Twitter

A book launch held by India coach Ravi Shastri has been called into question after the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled due to Covid concerns.

The cricket world was left angry and sad on Friday after the last-minute cancellation of the decisive fifth Test between England and India.

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Emergency talks had been raging through the night but it was not until shortly before 9am on Friday, just over two hours before the scheduled start and only a few minutes before the gates were due to open to a sell-out crowd of 22,000, that the game was called off due to Covid-19 problems in the Indian camp.

India declared they couldn't field a side despite their entire playing squad returning negative PCR tests on Thursday.

A positive test among the backroom staff - the squad's fourth in the last week - had already spooked the Indians and left them unwilling to play the match for fear of risking the players' health.

India coach Shastri has since come under the microscope after it emerged he had hosted a book launch last week where he and the majority of the 150 attendees weren't wearing masks.

According to reports, Shastri didn't receive clearance from the ECB’s Covid compliance department and didn't follow social-distancing protocols at the event.

He later tested positive for Covid-19, followed by three more members of the Indian staff.

India captain Virat Kohli was also at the event but tested negative.

“It was horrid. No one wore masks, apart from waiting staff," one attendee of the book launch told the Daily Mail.

"It left me feeling very uncomfortable. Everyone there went over to Shastri to meet him”.

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The England Cricket Board is said to be furious with Shastri, with sources referring to him as “Patient X”.

India's cricket board is also said to be up in arms after Shastri went against health advice to attend the event.

“This wasn‘t an official event that either of the boards had organised,” a BCCI official told The Times of India.

“The action of the team hasn’t gone down well with the (BCCI) Board. This incident has left the Board embarrassed.”

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Aussie cricket writer Malcolm Conn, who previously worked at Cricket NSW at the time, pointed out that Shastri often refused to wear a mask during the Sydney Test in January despite NSW's Covid outbreak.

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Cancelled Test match results in $56 million disaster

England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison, who spent a sleepless night leading the crisis talks with counterparts at the Board of Control for Cricket in India, bemoaned "a sad day for Test cricket internationally".

The Lancashire club, who play out of Old Trafford, estimated a "multi-million pound loss" as a result of the cancellation and are already looking to the ECB to help them avert financial disaster.

According to ESPNcricinfo, the lost revenue could total up to AU$56.4 million.

Harrison rejected the idea that the fear of missing out on the lucrative Indian Premier League tournament had caused the disquiet among India's squad.

Empty stands, pictured here following news of the cancellation of the fifth Test between England and India at Old Trafford.
Empty stands following news of the cancellation of the fifth Test between England and India at Old Trafford. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

"Let me be super clear, I don't think the IPL has anything to do with this," he said.

"This is not a situation which has been created by the rescheduled IPL, I fundamentally do not believe that for a second. This Indian cricket team are as passionate about Test cricket as fans in our country are."

Harrison said he would welcome a replacement Test next summer, but admitted he had no idea how or if that would feed into the existing series, which forms part of the World Test Championship.

"I think we have to just take a breath and do some work with the ICC, to formally ask them to adjudicate on the result of this," he said.

"We will separately have ICC adjudicate over whether this series is completed now, whether that fifth match is null and void or whether it's actually regarded as a forfeiture or something else."

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with AAP

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