Kolkata: Come Wednesday, Indian cricket squads - both men and women - will enter into another Bio Bubble life in Mumbai as they brace up to start a long drawn tour of England. While the men’s team are scheduled the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and the five-match Test series against England which ends in mid-September, the women’s squad will play a one-off Test, three ODIs and as many T20Is there.
The raging second wave of COVID-19 pandemic which had been sweeping India since April - forcing a suspension of the Indian Premier League - has kept the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on their toes this time. The players and support staff from all cities around the country except Mumbai, will be flown by charter flights and they will assemble at the team hotel in Mumbai for a 14-day hard quarantine, followed by another 10 days of soft quarantine in Southampton on their arrival in UK on June 2.
There are a few exceptions like the players who are Mumbai residents like skipper Virat Kohli, Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Head Coach Ravi Shastri who have been asked to stay in home quarantine from May 19 and then report to the team hotel on May 24. Both the Indian squads are then likely to fly out together on a charter flight to London.
Meanwhile, Wriddhiman Saha, one of the two wicketkeepers along with Rishabh Pant for the tour, has returned to his home city Kolkata after testing negative in Delhi where he was in a 14-day isolation for having tested positive for the virus during his stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. While Saha could not be contacted for his travel plans, a media report says that Saha has got the BCCI permission to visit his family in Kolkata before he heads to Mumbai to join the rest of the squad.
Saha was one of the three players, along with KL Rahul and Prasidh Krishna, whose availability, as the BCCI had said during squad announcement, was subject to fitness. Rahul had undergone surgery to treat appendicitis during the IPL where he is captain of Punjab Kings. Stand by paceman Krishna, who plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders, had tested positive for COVID-19 a day after returning from the IPL to his hometown Bengaluru.
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In an effort to put their best foot forward after the slip-up in the IPL, the BCCI has arranged for all members - both the men’s and women’s squads - to get three negative tests before they board the flights to Mumbai on Wednesday. There will be further testing done at the team hotel in Mumbai during their quarantine period.
The men’s squad will head directly to Southampton where India will play New Zealand in the inaugural WTC final between June 18-22. The reason for the ICC shifting their WTC final to Ageas Bowl from the Lord’s is that it’s one of the two venues (the other one being Old Trafford in Manchester) where the team hotel is located inside the stadium - a step which will help in keeping the Bubble secure and allow Indian players to practise should the permission for a ‘soft quarantine’ be procured from the British government.
Incidentally, there is still a question mark over the players’ families accompanying them on the tour in view of the pandemic. While the BCCI has given the green signal in view of the duration of the tour, it’s learnt they are waiting to hear from England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The BCCI has, as of now, allowed family members to be part of the Mumbai bubble where they will undergo the same bio-safety protocols meant for the team members.