England insist their preparations for the first Test in Rajkot are unchanged despite reports in India that their tour may be disrupted by financial constraints facing the home board.
An England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman described the team’s situation as “business as usual” as they undertook their first practice session at Mumbai’s CCI ground.
England are due to travel on to Rajkot tomorrow, with the first of five Tests in six weeks scheduled to start there three days later.
A letter from Ajay Shirke, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, to England team manager Phil Neale has been widely published – containing an apology that India cannot yet sign the mandatory memorandum of understanding which precedes all bilateral tours and regretting its consequent inability as yet to pay the tourists’ accommodation costs.
The BCCI’s apparent difficulties emanate from Supreme Court orders recently imposed on it following last year’s ruling by the Lodha Committee on the punishments for board officials found to be involved in the 2013 Indian Premier League corruption scandal.
England, like New Zealand before them as India’s previous visitors, therefore find themselves in a position which is not of their own making.
But the ECB spokesman confirmed there is no reason yet for concern.
“We are already in India, there is no change to any plans, and we are looking forward to the series against India,” he said.
The letter from Shirke reads: “Dear Phil, I warmly welcome you for the upcoming cricket series. I am however at great pains to inform you that the BCCI is at present not in a position to execute the MoU between the Indian Cricket Board and the ECB.
“This is due to restrictions on execution of contracts imposed on the BCCI by a Court order.
“Certain courtesies such as hotel, travel and various other arrangements have been extended to you on arrival of the team in India. However, till the MoU is executed, the BCCI is not in a position to commit to paying for the same.
“Please make arrangements to remit such payments. The BCCI will inform you as and when further instructions are received by the BCCI from the Lodha Committee. I apologise on behalf of the BCCI for inconvenience that is being caused.”
It is understood England’s tour management have been reassured by the ECB in London that they should not worry themselves about those matters.
The uncertainty has inevitably begun to filter down to Alastair Cook’s team too, but vice-captain Joe Root made it clear he will be losing no sleep about it just yet.
“That must have come out this morning,” he said. “My biggest challenge in the morning is making sure I make the team bus.
“For whoever it concerns, I think it’s very important that they worry about it and we just get on with the cricket.”
England will be back at the CCI ground for a second practice at their base camp tomorrow morning, before flying to Rajkot 24 hours later.
Spinner Gareth Batty took a blow to his left forearm at nets today, but was not seriously hurt, while England hope to know soon if and when their all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson will be able to join them as he continues his recovery back home from a stress fracture of the shoulder.
The running order of their first practice session since arriving from Dhaka, where they lost a Test to Bangladesh for the first time to finish with a 1-1 drawn series, provided further evidence that out-of-form Gary Ballance is unlikely to figure in Rajkot.
After the left-hander’s scores of one, nine, nine and five in his four attempts in Bangladesh, it is hard to see how England could keep him at number four - and he duly had to sit and wait his turn while others, including Cook’s new opening partner Ben Duckett and the uncapped Haseeb Hameed, batted first alongside those already established in the top five.