MANCHESTER: Former England pacer Steve Harmison fears that the cancellation of the final Test between England and India could be 'the beginning of the end for Test cricket'. He also believes that the upcoming second leg of the IPL in UAE played a part in the cancellation.
The fifth Test was called off just hours before it was due to begin due to Covid-19 outbreak concerns in the Indian team after the second physiotherapist tested positive. "Due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team," read the statement from ECB on Friday.
"It's rubbish, it really is. 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. Let's be fair before we start throwing stones, England did it to South Africa. Let's get that straight from the very start. We're not the totally innocent party in this because we came home when we didn't know what was going on.
"But this is all about the IPL. End of," said Harmison on talkSPORT;s Breakfast show on Saturday.
"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," added Harmison.
The 42-year-old, who played 63 Tests for England between 2002 and 2009, felt very sorry for the people in England who were looking forward to an exciting finale of a hard-fought Test series. "It stinks, it really does. I feel so sorry for the England players, the England supporters, and I feel sorry for the game of Test match cricket, because this for me is where it starts, if we're starting to cancel games."
"This series has been fantastic, up there with one of the best, and not to have a chance to go 2-2 or for India to have a chance to go 3-1 and showcase what a fantastic side India have been, for me this mars everything. Test cricket is alive largely because of one man - Virat Kohli. He speaks so positively about Test match cricket, he loves it, wants to play and thinks it's the pinnacle. But now all of a sudden India don't want to play and that's it, the game's gone, the game has gone in Test match cricket."
Harmison concluded by saying India flexed its muscles in not playing the fifth Test due to the second leg of IPL in the UAE.
"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'."