England vs India: Test ‘on’ amid Covid shadow
All Indian players are understood to have returned negative RT-PCR tests for Covid-19, clearing the decks for the Manchester Test to begin on Friday as scheduled though there were still worries about what happens if someone turns positive during the match.
Neither the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) nor the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had confirmed till 1.30am IST on Friday on the status of the Covid tests but sources confirmed to The Telegraph that all the players had negative results.
BBC Test Match Special tweeted that the ECB had said that all the players have tested negative and “the Old Trafford Test goes ahead as planned”.
This capped a day of uncertainty after assistant physio Yogesh Parmar, who has been with the team in the absence of his senior Nitin Patel, returned positive. Being the only physio available with the side, he had been in close contact with several players over the last few days. The team’s match-eve practice session had to be cancelled as a consequence and the players were told to stay inside their hotel rooms till further notice.
Sources told The Telegraph that the BCCI had a virtual meeting with the team management where some of the players expressed concern for themselves and their families. They, however, left it to the Board to take a final call.
Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami have been suffering from various niggles and are believed to be Parmar’s close contacts since he has attended to them regularly. The contingent has been left without a physio since Patel is learnt to be isolating himself from other members of the contingent as a precautionary measure.
Patel had been identified as Ravi Shastri’s close contact when the head coach tested positive for Covid-19 during the fourth Test at The Oval in London. He has since returned a negative RT-PCR test.
All the members of the Indian contingent were made to undergo lateral flow tests on Thursday morning and results came negative. But another round of RT-PCR tests followed as the lateral flow tests are not deemed to be reliable.
Even though the players have tested negative, the underlying fear is that members could develop symptoms or return positive tests during the match. Some of the Indian players have also expressed similar apprehensions.
“What happens if any of the players are positive after the Test begins? This is an unprecedented situation that could potentially affect both teams,” a source said.
The BCCI and the ECB have had several rounds of meetings to decide the future course of action. Several players of both teams contracted with different franchises are supposed to travel to the UAE for the remainder of the IPL, which begins on September 19, five days after the completion of the series. It will be a bubble-to-bubble transfer and the players will travel in a chartered aircraft to Dubai.
“The BCCI has a lot at stake. The contingent’s safety is their top priority and hence can’t risk any embarrassment. A lot is riding on the IPL and hence they are extra cautious… The ECB though remains confident of going ahead with the Test,” the source maintained.
The World Test Championship playing conditions, however, state that a Covid-19 outbreak within a team is an acceptable reason for abandonment of a Test.