ECB criticised for changing India Test start time for benefit of Asian broadcasters

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India's Virat Kohli, during a nets session at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham. - PA
India's Virat Kohli, during a nets session at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham. - PA

The ECB has been urged to consider ticket buying supporters after changing the start time at short notice for the India Test to gain more exposure with Asian broadcasters.

The rearranged fifth Test begins half an hour earlier than usual at 10.30am on Friday.

Many supporters only discovered the news at the weekend when it was reported in the media.

An ECB spokesman said the decision was made to give the match greater exposure in India and not overlap with the Vitality Blast matches in the evening.

By starting at 10.30am the match will begin at 3pm in India and finish at 10pm, better suiting broadcasters but it does mean supporters who had already booked train tickets could miss the start of play.  The Blast regularly clashes with Test cricket.

“The rationale behind the start being brought forward seems reasonable but we can’t help but feel the impact on fans attending the match hasn’t been fully considered,” said Becky Fairlie-Clarke, chief executive of the Cricket Supporters’ Association. “We know that trains are booked and plans are made well in advance and so this change is inconvenient for some supporters coming to the ground. We’d urge the ECB to always consider those who have paid to be there and obviously want to see a full days play.”

A spokesman for the Barmy Army added: “More notice would have been ideal but at least we have not learned on the morning of the match like we did for the abandoned Test last year.”

The match was shifted from Emirates Old Trafford to Edgbaston in October last year.

Rohit Sharma, the India Test captain, is expected to miss the match with Covid, a bizarre coincidence given the Test last year was cancelled because of a Covid outbreak in their camp.

Jasprit Bumrah is likely to lead India instead for the first time. Rohit’s deputy, KL Rahul is injured. Rohit only took over from Virat Kohli earlier this year as Test captain and was India’s best batsman in last summer’s series, averaging 52.

Ben Foakes will have a fitness test on Thursday after emerging from Covid isolation. He complained of a bad back during the Headingley Test with Jonny Bairstow taking over keeping duties in the New Zealand second innings. He was later diagnosed with covid and Sam Billings called up as an official replacement. Billings was retained in the squad in case Foakes did not recover.

James Anderson is fit after missing the last Test with an ankle problem and is relishing his time playing under the new regime, saying he has never know such a relaxed dressing room.

“I have never been in a dressing room before when we have chased 300 on a pitch that is turning and everyone being so calm, believing we were going to chase them down,” he said about the third Test. “That for me after 20 years of playing international cricket I had never seen before. You always get a few jittery people but one to 11 and the staff included were just calm and believed. I think that belief can go such a long way especially with the young players we have got. Trying to develop their confidence and experience, I think that will do wonders for them.”

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