AFP/ Manchester, United Kingdom
The fifth Test between England and India in Manchester starting Friday is set to go ahead as scheduled after the England and Wales Cricket Board announced yesterday there had been no further positive coronavirus cases within the Indian camp.
The Old Trafford match was under threat after the tourists cancelled a training session and media commitments after reports yesterday of a fresh Covid-19 case involving a support staff member. But an ECB spokesman said later yesterday that all subsequent PCR tests from within the India squad had produced negative results and that the Test match “goes ahead”.
India head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar had already been ruled out of attending the series finale following positive Covid-19 tests during the previous match in London.
The trio remained in isolation as India completed a 157-run victory in the fourth Test at the Oval on Monday – a result that put the tourists 2-1 up with one match left to play in the series. But media reports in India said another member of the backroom staff had now tested positive following a fresh round of testing on Wednesday. The ESPNcricinfo website named assistant physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar as the affected individual.
Earlier, a Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) source told AFP: “The training session today was called off and all the players have undergone new tests.”
And the negative results now appear to have enabled the showpiece match to go ahead, with India bidding for just a fourth series victory in England and the hosts looking to avoid losing two series in a home season for the first time since 1986.
Parmar had to take charge during the fourth Test when lead physio Nitin Patel was forced to self-isolate after being identified as a close contact of Shastri.
There had been reports the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India did not want the fifth Test to go ahead. The lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament resumes in the United Arab Emirates on September 19 – just five days after the scheduled end of the England tour – and the board did not want the event to be “impacted”, according to the Indian Express. But BCCI president and former India captain Sourav Ganguly was more equivocal.
“We don’t know if the match will happen at the moment. Hopefully we can get some game,” he said, according to Indian media. The India squad has had to deal with several coronavirus cases since arriving England in June, when Virat Kohli’s men were beaten by New Zealand in the inaugural World Test Championship final at Southampton. The first was in July when Rishabh Pant, the first-choice Test wicketkeeper, tested positive and the tourists suffered further disruptions.
England’s Jos Buttler, speaking before it was confirmed the Test would go ahead as scheduled, said yesterday: “We don’t know too much about it at the moment.”
“It would be naive to speculate on what’s going on,” the wicketkeeper-batsman added.
“At the moment we’re fully expecting the game to go ahead and we’re preparing that way.”
Asked if England would be undergoing additional virus tests, Buttler replied: “No, all’s well in our camp. We trained well this morning and we’re looking forward to the game tomorrow.” However, an ECB spokesman added later yesterday that all of England’s IPL contingent at Old Trafford would be tested after the end of the match.
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