CHENNAI: Finally, the first cricket series after pandemic is set to begin in India. Less than a week after reaching home after a historic series in Australia, the India team will get into another bio-secure bubble on January 27 at Chennai’s Leela Palace. This time for their series against England scheduled from February 5. The England team, which will arrive in the city from Colombo on January 27, will also be put up in the same hotel alongside match officials and others who would be involved during the Test match.
India’s strength and conditioning coach, Nick Webb, was the first one to land in Chennai and is already in the bio-bubble. Webb, who is from New Zealand, arrived in the city with Ravichandran Ashwin, Washington Sundar and Bharat Arun on Friday morning. The three, like the rest of the team, will enter the bio-bubble either on January 26 or 27 and will be placed under quarantine.
On Saturday, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns (they are skipping the Sri Lanka series), will travel to India via a commercial flight from England. Upon landing in New Delhi or Mumbai, they will be tested for Covid-19 and kept in isolation for six hours at least until the results are out. According to BCCI, if the results are negative, they will be allowed to board the flight to Chennai where they will undergo a separate quarantine at the hotel before joining their teammates.
Several India players reached home to a rousing welcome over the last couple of days and there have been instances where maintaining social distance looked difficult. According to BCCI protocol, the players will undergo six days of quarantine at the hotel where they will be tested thrice before entering the bio-bubble. Teams will resume training from February 2, just three days prior to the start of the first Test.
Even though England are arriving on charter flight via air bubble from Colombo, they too will undergo the same quarantine as the Indians. The first two Tests in Chennai will be played behind closed doors with the BCCI yet to take a decision on Ahmedabad and Pune leg. As far as local officials are concerned, around 15 will be placed under bio-bubble and these include three local liaison managers for the teams and match officials. Similarly, a minimum of three groundsmen and bus driver too will be there.
While the BCCI had wanted even the office-bearers of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) to be in a bio-bubble, they have excused themselves citing organisational constraints. This means they won’t be allowed anywhere near the dressing rooms and, on match days, will have to go via a corridor.