Test team wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and training assistant Dayanand Garani have tested positive for Covid-19, while bowling coach Bharat Arun, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and Abhimanyu Easwaran have also been isolated as India's tour of England suffered a setback ahead of a training camp for the five-Test series beginning next month.
The news of positive tests of Pant and Garani and isolation of Arun, Saha, and Easwaran was confirmed through a statement by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), whose callous approach in managing the three-week break after the World Test Championship (WTC) final resulted in this.
"Pant, who had not stayed in the team hotel during the break period, tested positive on July 8. He is asymptomatic and currently undergoing self-isolation at the place where he reported positive. He is being closely monitored by the BCCI medical team and is on his way to recovery. He will be able to join the squad in Durham (for the team camp) after returning two negative RT-PCR tests," said a statement from the BCCI.
"The BCCI medical team have identified B. Arun, bowling coach, [wicketkeeper] Wriddhiman Saha and Abhimanyu Easwaran as close contacts of Garani, who was in the team hotel when he tested positive following RT-PCR tests on 14th July. The four personnel will undergo 10-day isolation and will remain in their respective rooms in the team hotel in London," added the statement.
The positive tests have brought the BCCI under scrutiny for its decision to allow players to visit sporting venues as well as other public places in England and mingle with crowd during their three-week break after the WTC final.
The lack of precautions in a country that is opening up after lockdown and seeing a rise in cases, including of the Delta variant of the virus, is shocking considering that India are due to play a five-Test series from August 4.
A loss of a key player like Pant can hurt India badly. "He will undergo another test after a couple of days," said BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla to IANS before adding that the rest of the squad is fine.
"He was staying with his relatives in the break and during that period, he caught the virus. He was away from the other members of the squad," added Shukla.
Pant had visited the Euro 2020 pre-quarter final between England and Germany on June 29 and had later tweeted pictures of himself with a few of his friends/relatives sitting in the crowd.
"Good experience watching [emoticon: football] [emoticons: flags of England and Germany]," Pant had tweeted with pictures from the Wembley Stadium where the match was played.
Hanuma Vihari and Jasprit Bumrah were the other players to have visited Wembley to watch Euro 2020 football and posted pictures from there. Team coach Ravi Shastri and premier off-spinner R Ashwin, who played a County Championship match for Surrey this week, had visited Wimbledon during the break.
Asked if it was sensible on the part of the BCCI to let players mingle with the public, a senior BCCI official said the players needed some time off.
"It wouldn't have been good to keep them in isolation or bio-bubble for three weeks. They were in isolation prior to the World Test Championship final and remained in bio-bubble through it. They then again go into bio-bubble from today (Thursday, July 15). It would have been mentally draining for them," said the official.
Shukla added that the BCCI has issued an advisory for the remainder of the tour.
"The BCCI secretary (Jay Shah) has issued an advisory to all squad members to take precautions and not venture out," said Shukla further.
But it appears a bit late. The news of positive tests and isolation came on the day the Indian team travelled to Durham for a camp after finishing their break.
The team is due to play their only warm-up, a hastily-arranged three-day affair against a County XI from July 20 at the Riverside ground. The Board said the match is on track. But how many will take the field remains to be seen