India’s £100m Test series against England was at the centre of a Covid scare on Wednesday night when it was reported one of the touring party had tested positive.
The Indian Express reported that one player reported suffering symptoms and subsequently tested positive and has been put in isolation.
The India players have been on holiday in the UK since the end of the World Test Championship final on June 23.
They met up in Durham on Wednesday to begin preparations for the five Test series against England that starts on Aug 4 at Trent Bridge.
The unnamed player will remain in isolation with his family while the rest of the squad prepare for a match against a County Championship XI in Durham from July 20.
The Indian players have all been fully vaccinated and will undergo three rounds of testing after being free to mingle in society on their UK break with most accompanied by family members.
A Test match against India is worth a minimum of £25m to the ECB in broadcast and ticketing revenue and they will be desperate to ensure the matches go ahead on schedule.
The positive test follows a string of cases that have rocked cricket over the past 10 days.
Firstly, England had to pick an entire new squad for the ODI series against Pakistan when three players and four support staff tested positive, forcing the rest into 10 days of isolation.
It has subsequently emerged that another player and three support staff from the original squad tested positive.
Derbyshire’s last two T20 Blast fixtures were called off on Wednesday due to a Covid outbreak and Ashley Giles, the England team director, recently admitted the game is walking a knife edge with the virus sweeping through younger people who have not been fully vaccinated.
The IPL begins just six days after the fifth Test at Emirates Old Trafford on September 14, leaving little wriggle room.
The ECB will also be worried India players could become nervous about staying in the UK if there is a mass outbreak of Covid within the team.
There is still time before the first Test for positive cases to clear up and India do have an enlarged squad of 20 players, plus four on standby.
But this comes at the same time as the counties worry about being able to field teams for the Royal London 50-over tournament and the ECB frets over a Covid outbreak badly affecting the Hundred, which starts next week.
The Royal London Cup is in danger of being cancelled leaving county cricket with a blank month due to a combination of Covid and losing players to the Hundred, as the pandemic brings chaos to the game.
Counties are worried about players self-isolating, or being diagnosed positive for Covid as the virus sweeps through younger people who are not fully vaccinated, while also conscious they could lose players to the Hundred if that tournament suffers withdrawals due to the virus.
Derbyshire have 14 players self isolating after a squad member tested positive, and six injured, while Kent are without 17 first choice players including Sam Billings who contracted Covid last week while on England duty.
He has completed his 10 days in quarantine but is not available for the weekend’s Vitality Blast quarter-final due to the ECB’s return to play rules which state a player needs another seven days on the sidelines on top of the 10 laid down by government.
It is not just players that are the worry for counties. They are concerned they will lose bar staff, stewards and office staff and are braced for a number of cancellations at the last minute.
The Hundred is on a knife edge with slim squads and the risk of Covid sweeping through a franchise.
Counties would then be braced for losing more players to the Hundred if that happens. There is also a big decision to make over England’s Test players.—AFP