Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman said it is unfair to point fingers at the Indian players and play the blame game after the fifth and final Test was canceled due to the COVID-19 fear following the Coronavirus outbreak inside the touring camp.
The series-deciding final Test, which was to be played at Manchester, was dramatically canceled just two hours before the scheduled start after as many as four COVID-19 cases emerged in the Indian camp. Indian players were reluctant to play the match.
For which, many cricket experts blamed the Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) for the cancellations, as none of the Team India players tested positive for the Coronavirus.
However, Laxman refused to blame the IPL 2021, which is set to resume in the UAE from September 19, for the cancellation of the final Test against England, saying it was the right call to cancel the game in Manchester, considering the potential spread of COVID-19 among the players and others on the field.
Laxman wrote in his column for Times of India, “It was an abrupt, somewhat disappointing end to what had been a cracking series but given the circumstances in which the final Test at Old Trafford was cancelled, it's unfair to point fingers or play the blame game. More than a year and a half since the pandemic, the world is still far from a safe place.”
He continued, “It might be tempting for many to see the Indian team as the villain of the piece, but I can say from our IPL experiences this summer that once any member of the team that you have been in close contact with tests positive, it is impossible not to be apprehensive, indeed fearful.
To take the field in that mental state is far from ideal. So is the potential risk of endangering others on the park, be it your teammates, the officials or the opponents. Against that backdrop, I think the cancellation of the Test was the right call, though I feel deeply for the fans who had invested so much time, money and emotion in the contest.”
As the BCCI has already offered to play that cancelled Test match next year when they tour England for a white-ball series, the legendary batsman suggested the ICC award the Test series 2-1 to India, as the tourists were already 2-1 up in the five-match Test series after a 157-run win in the fourth Test at Oval.
He further mentioned, “I hope the ICC sees the situation for what it is and awards the series 2-1 to India, particularly with the BCCI having offered to play a Test during their white-ball tour of England next year.”
On the Test match cancellation debate among the cricketers, he noted: “What this episode reiterates is that we must not let our guard down. If that means having to stay in bubbles, even if the host country doesn't demand it, so be it. It might be tough on players, agreed, but it's better to be safe than sorry. I understand bubble fatigue can become a factor, but there can't be any compromise on safety.
As for the series itself, it was heady and tempestuous. Fortunes swung wildly though I don't think anyone was in any doubt about which was the better side; 3-1 to India would have been an accurate reflection of the strengths of the two teams and the quality of cricket they brandished.”
On India’s Test victory at the Oval after 50 years, Laxman said: “It might be stating the obvious, but the biggest takeaway for the visitors was the quality and belief of their pace attack. The fast bowlers are the reason India are winning Tests and series overseas with regularity, and once again, they stood up and asked to be counted.
What was even more impressive was that while there were defining spells, it wasn't a one-man show. Everyone contributed meaningfully, and even those who came in with little game time behind them didn't disappoint.”
On the much-debated topic of playing the left-spinner all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja over off-spinner R Ashwin in England, the former cricketer wrote: “If there is one thing the attack can get better at, it is in staying patient and stringing maidens together when the pitch flattens out, like it did on Day Three at Lord's and Day Two in Leeds. I know I have been insistent on R Ashwin's inclusion in these columns; that being said, Ravindra Jadeja was more than effective throughout the series, especially on the final day at The Oval, both in a containing and wicket-taking role.”
On opening pair of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, the legendary Test batsman wrote: “India's largest plus was the unearthing of a fabulous opening pair. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul are not just skilled but also experienced. They brought those traits into play to make handsome, significant runs. They trusted their game plans and backed their defence; I would go so far as to say that they are the best opening pair in Test cricket currently, shading Tom Latham and Devon Conway.”
He signed off by saying, “The one obvious concern India must address is the inability of the experienced middle-order to capitalize on the great starts. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli showed signs of returning to form, but Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant were out of touch. A few technical issues have crept into the middle-order batting, and with more challenging assignments in-store, it's imperative that those are ironed out at the earliest.”
(With TOI Inputs)