India's MD Siraj, second left, is congratulated by teammates after getting the wicket of Australia's Cameron Green during play on day four of the second cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.(AP)
India's MD Siraj, second left, is congratulated by teammates after getting the wicket of Australia's Cameron Green during play on day four of the second cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.(AP)

India reluctant to play Brisbane Test in hard quarantine

An Indian fan posted a video clip in social media of the five players eating indoors at a Melbourne restaurant on Friday. Bio-bubble protocols only allow players to eat outdoors.
By Rasesh Mandani | Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 04, 2021 10:33 AM IST

It was business as usual for the Indian cricket team on Sunday at Melbourne as they opted for a fitness training session at the MCG gym after nets were ruled out due to rain. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, amongst the five who are currently isolated from the rest of the squad for possible bio-bubble protocol violation, also trained but travelled separately.

“Each of the five players are in good health and will be travelling to Sydney on Monday for the next Test, be it separately,” said a BCCI official. It is learnt the trio expected to make the playing eleven in the third Test—Sharma, Gill and Rishabh Pant—will be allowed to train in Sydney too. They will be cleared to play if they pass the mandatory Covid tests in Sydney with the rest of the squad. The bio breach investigation report from Cricket Australia (CA) was awaited at the time of writing.

An Indian fan posted a video clip in social media of the five players eating indoors at a Melbourne restaurant on Friday. Bio-bubble protocols only allow players to eat outdoors.

The Indian camp is unhappy to be projected as being causal about bio-bubble protocols. The BCCI official said: “It was impossible for the players to police every fan to keep distance when they are outdoors.”

BRISBANE TEST DOUBTS

The tour itself got a go-ahead only after CA was able to get clearance from the host state governments for a soft bio-bubble, after the Indian players had served the 14-day quarantine with training at Sydney. That may not be the case at Brisbane, Queensland, where the final Test is scheduled from Jan 15.

The Queensland government is insisting on hard quarantine for the teams as they would be travelling from Sydney, parts of which are Covid hotspots. Eleven new Covid-19 cases were reported in New South Wales on Sunday.

“Perhaps if they came from somewhere else they wouldn’t have had to quarantine in Queensland. It’s no different to anyone else coming from a declared hotspot. They would have to quarantine,” Jeannette Young, chief health officer, Queensland said in a media conference.

An Indian team source says they are unwilling to enter hard quarantine again, like they did for IPL in the UAE. No official communication to that effect has been made to CA yet.

Cricket Australia is left to walk a tightrope with Queensland’s Shadow Sports Minister Tim Mander (in opposition) adding political fuel to the fire. “If the Indian cricket team wants to spit the dummy and disregard quarantine guidelines in Brisbane for the fourth Test, then they shouldn’t come,” Mander was reported as saying by the Australian media.

If the two cricket boards are unable to find common ground on bio-bubble protocols for Brisbane, Sydney could well stage back-to-back Tests to complete the series. That wouldn’t please the Australia team, given their unbeaten record there for 22 years. They also have an edge over India with the visitors never having won a Test on the hard and bouncy surface at The Gabba. Traditionally, Sydney offers some turn.

“Our record is very good there and we tend to play good cricket. India has a great bowling line-up and a great team, so we certainly won’t take it for granted when we get there but we’d love to play at the Gabba,” batsman Matthew Wade said at a virtual media conference on Sunday.

“If it went two games back-to-back at the SCG it would not be something we’d want to do, we’d be much more comfortable playing the schedule as it rolls out. There’s no secret we love Gabba and want to get there.”

Any CA decision is expected to be in consultation with BCCI, with A$300 million riding on the Indian tour.

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