CHENNAI: A Mithali Raj-led India side will depart for the United Kingdom by the middle of August after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) held positive talks over the resumption of women's cricket.
While a formal announcement is expected in the coming days, this will be the first instance of any Indian team returning to action since the country went into coronavirus lockdown on March 23.
South Africa will be the third team in the tri-series to be played in September. They were originally supposed to tour UK in June.
With the West Indies and Pakistan men's teams agreeing to tour England for a full-fledged series, the ECB saw an opportunity to hold talks with the BCCI. It is understood that if everything goes as per plan, Mithali and Co. will depart from Bengaluru or Mumbai between August 15-23 depending on the standard operating procedures which will be formalised soon.
The India women's team will more or less follow the same procedures the West Indies and Pakistan sides had to.
The West Indies arrived in England on June 9 followed by Pakistan on June 28. Both teams were put in bio-secure environments after undergoing Covid-19 tests and they have been allowed to train and practice. The first Test between England and the West Indies begins on July 8 at Southampton.
As things stand, it is not clear where the India women's team will be based out of since Southampton is being spoken of as a possible host. But given Pakistan and England also will be based out of the port city during August end, the BCCI might seek an alternate venue to ensure more safety.
With regards to holding any camp for the women's team before they depart to the UK, the possibility looks unlikely given the situation in most cities. It is understood that a few of the players might resume training after July 15 provided the situation improves in their respective cities.
While the BCCI did explore holding a camp, there are a few complications involved. For instance, with different states having different quarantine procedures under lockdown, officials reckon it will be a logistical challenge to assemble the team in one city and hold a camp.
However, players will be either asked to assemble in Bengaluru or Mumbai where Covid-19 tests will be conducted, following which they will be given the nod to fly. Indications are that the players might even be asked to undergo a couple of tests before they depart for the UK in a chartered flight.
While touring teams usually consist of 16 players, the number might increase this time given the complex situation. The BCCI will also send additional medical staff with the team with players supposed to have temperature checks every day.
Once they get to the UK, the Indian team will be given a couple of weeks to train before the tri-series commences.
The series holds a lot of importance as there is 50-over World Cup scheduled to take place in New Zealand in February-March. India have already booked their spot for the tournament.