India support staff tests positive for COVID-19; fifth Test uncertain

The players took fresh round of COVID tests on Thursday morning, and they have been asked to stay put in their hotel rooms till their test results are out.

Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur at the training session in Manchester on Wednesday.   -  AP

The weather forecast at Old Trafford for Friday is discouraging. Even if the sky is cleared, the series-deciding fifth Test between India and England may be a non-starter on Friday, with a member of India's support staff having tested COVID-19 positive.

Sportstar understands that soon after India finished its Wednesday morning’s training at Old Trafford, physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar’s lateral flow test returned positive.

As a result, India's training session for Thursday was cancelled and all the members of the contingent have been confined to their rooms until further notice. Following Parmar’s positive flow test, all the India squad members underwent RT-PCR test Wednesday night. The reports are expected late on Thursday night.

India’s team management also cancelled its customary pre-match media interaction without citing any official reason. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly admitted the Test match was in doubt.

With Parmar having helped multiple India players’ recovery sessions till Wednesday, India’s contingent is hoping the others haven’t been infected with the coronavirus. He treated at least five senior squad members after the team’s training on Wednesday.

The England camp, meanwhile, stressed it is getting ready for the crucial game, with India leading 2-1. “We don’t know too much about it at the moment. It would be naive to speculate on what’s going on. At the moment we are fully expecting the game to go ahead and we are preparing that way, so fingers crossed the game will go ahead,” Jos Buttler, the England vice-captain, said after England’s training.

Parmar’s positive test takes the number of COVID-19 cases in India’s contingent to four, with head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach B. Arun and fielding coach R. Sridhar having been diagnosed COVID-19 positive during the fourth Test in London last week.

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Nitin Patel, the senior physiotherapist, was isolated in London after being traced as the trio’s close contact. He is understood to have travelled to Manchester on Thursday, after having cleared two negative RT-PCR tests.

While the India players waited anxiously in their rooms, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were involved in discussions over possibilities that may arise out of a possible abandonment.

With the Indian Premier League (IPL) scheduled to resume in United Arab Emirates on September 19, the BCCI isn’t keen on risking the health of players days ahead of the money-spinning league. The ECB, on the other hand, has been stressing on the need for the game to go ahead should all the remaining members return negative tests leading up to the match.

If the cricketers get a go-ahead to take the field and still the BCCI decides to not risk the team taking the field, the ECB may press for India forfeiting the game. India, meanwhile, may press for rescheduling the Test during India’s limited-overs tour to England next year.

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding the match, should the captains actually walk out for the toss, R. Ashwin is set to be drafted into the XI with a niggle ruling Ravindra Jadeja out of the match.

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