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Monday, September 20, 2021

Indian team not keen on playing fifth Test after support staff tests positive

Players test negative but are wary of Covid-19 risk with the IPL starting in the UAE on September 19.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: September 10, 2021 11:26:06 am
India vs EnglandIndia's captain Virat Kohli, left, sits with teammates and KL Rahul, right, and Rishabh Pant. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Uncertainty remains over the Manchester Test, with Indian players, this paper understands, not keen to turn up for the game scheduled to be played from Friday.

This follows the Indian team support staff, assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar, returning Covid positive ahead of the match.

Although the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is keen on going ahead with the schedule after the latest round of RT-PCR tests of the Indian players returned negative, Virat Kohli’s team have reservations.

It is learnt that the Indian players had a meeting on Thursday evening (BST), where the majority of the squad members expressed their unwillingness to play the fifth Test. According to sources, with the Indian Premier League (IPL) resuming in the United Arab Emirates from September 19, players are wary about the risk factors. Parmar had been monitoring several players, including Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma – players with various niggles – during and after the fourth Test that ended on Monday.

Old Trafford, India vs ENgland Fifth and final Test is scheduled to start from Friday at Old Trafford in Manchester. (FILE)

Players are unsure about what lies in store for the future, given that the virus has a certain incubation period. According to the source, testing positive in the future rounds of tests can put a question mark over their IPL participation and also in the T20 World Cup that commences in October. Sky Sports, however, reported that the final Test is set to go ahead as scheduled. “The fifth Test between England and India on Friday will go ahead as scheduled after the ECB announced there have been no further positive Covid tests in the Indian camp,” it reported.

But Kohli and company cancelled their pre-match training following instructions from the cricket board to stay put at the team hotel. The BCCI, meanwhile, has kept its cards close.

Asked about if the fifth Test would go ahead, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly told The Indian Express: “Nothing yet.”

It is learnt that the BCCI, after talking to the team in Manchester, isn’t keen to go ahead with the Test. With the IPL set to resume on September 19, they don’t want the tournament to be impacted. At the same time, they are liaising with the ECB while the England team, according to vice-captain Jos Buttler, is expecting the game to go ahead. The team was already Covid-hit, with head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar returning positive during the fourth Test at The Oval. It prevented them from travelling to Manchester. Head physio Nitin Patel, who was self-isolating in London after being identified as Shastri’s close contact, has joined the team.

As regards to England players, they seem to be not fully aware of the development. “We don’t know too much to be honest at the moment. It would be naive to speculate too much on stuff I don’t know about. We don’t know too much about the game getting called off at the moment. At the moment, we are fully expecting the game to go ahead and we are preparing that way. So fingers crossed, the game will go ahead,” Buttler said at a press conference today. It needs to be seen if the forfeiture clause will be exercised if India refuse to turn up for the Test. India lead the five-match series 2-1.

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