Sri Lanka-England Test Series postponed amid Coronavirus threat

Written by Vishwas Gupta

England’s cricket team abruptly pulled out of a tour of Sri Lanka on Friday over the “unprecedented” crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A practice match in Colombo was halted as the team announced they would be flying back to London, and the first of two Test matches due to start on March 19 has been indefinitely postponed. The decision was taken by England Cricket Board (ECB) today after the country identified hundreds of new cases and most deaths in a single day on Thursday.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic worsening globally, and after discussions with Sri Lanka Cricket, we have today made the decision to return our players to the U.K and postpone the forthcoming Test series between Sri Lanka and England. At this time, the physical and mental well being of our players and support teams is paramount. We will now look to bring them home to their families as soon as possible. These are completely unprecedented times, and decisions like this go beyond cricket. We would like to thank our colleagues at Sri Lanka Cricket for their outstanding support and assistance throughout this situation. We look forward to returning to Sri Lanka in the very near future to fulfill this important Test series​” the ECB said in a statement.

“We had proposed to play the two tests behind closed doors and they were also agree till today morning. However, after most number of new cases, the top officials of ECB were on the opinion to postpone the series altogether” a top SLC administrator told Cricket Age.

The first Test was scheduled to starts on March 19 in Galle, while second Test from March 27 at the SSC in Colombo.

“As the situation in UK is going bad to worse by each passing day, the English players wanted to be with their families. So, the Sri Lanka Board authorities also happily agreed to postpone the series” the top administrator added further.

The Joe Root-led England team, already in the country, and playing their second warm-up game of the tour, were following the detailed protocol laid down by England Cricket Board. Having already substituted handshakes for fist bumps, they were also been told to avoid obliging fans for selfies and autographs.

But with around 2,000 English fans were scheduled to travel to the country from this weekend, the expected decision was taken to call off the tour as Sri Lankan authorities look to control the spread of Coronavirus within their borders.

With the country’s quarantine facilities only able to hold around 2,500 people and cases of Covid-19 markedly increasing in the UK every day, complete cancellation of the series appears would appear the most sensible option available. However the ECB are deferring to Government advice and will only call off the tour if advised to do so. That could be taken out of their hands though if Sri Lanka follow the example of India and ban entry to all foreign travellers in the coming days.

Sporting events have taken a hit across the globe; among others, the NBA have suspended their season until further notice, ATP tournaments in California stand cancelled, and the Bahrain Grand Prix will be closed to spectators. On the other hand, the India-South Africa, and the New Zealand-Australia ODI series are set to go ahead as planned.

A call on the Indian Premier league (IPL) which is set to feature players from several nationalities, will be taken after a governing council meeting on March 14, although Cricket Age had already published that the tournament will take place behind closed doors.

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Vishwas Gupta