IPL 2020: RCB players to be tested thrice for Covid-19 before flying to UAE

RCB's latest recruit Shahbaz Ahmed talks about his maiden IPL stint, the challenges of playing cricket during a pandemic and following medical protocols in the UAE.

Shahbaz Ahmed claimed 35 wickets in the 2019-20 Ranji season.   -  PTI

When Bengal all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed was signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction last December, little did he know he would end up waiting nine months to get the first taste of the Twenty20 carnival. 

"It's great news that the IPL is finally happening (laughs). I can't wait to get started," said Shahbaz.

Starting September 19, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is scheduled to host the 13th edition of the IPL, which has been shifted outside India as the country is coping with a high surge of Covid-19 cases. Shahbaz is excited, while aware of the precautions to mitigate the risk of the virus.

READ | IPL 2020: Kohli and RCB teammates to reach UAE in last week of August

"On August 14, we are going to Bangalore where we will be under quarantine for a week. We will undergo tests for Covid-19 on the 10th, 12th and most likely on the 18th again. Only after we get the requisite medical clearance will we be allowed to leave [for the UAE]."

Passengers arriving in UAE are required to carry a negative COVID-19 PCR test report issued no more than 96 hours before their arrival in the country. Shahbaz acknowledges the challenges of playing cricket during a pandemic, but trusts the RCB management to take necessary safety measures. 

"Look, it's not safe to travel (around India) given the spike in the number of (Covid-19) cases," he said. "That said, we've to get to Bangalore first, for which I'll probably board a flight from Delhi. Once we are there, I'm sure the (RCB) management will fill us in on the standard operating procedures so that we can keep ourselves and our teammates safe."

The all-rounder also scored 509 at 36.35 as Bengal reached the Ranji final. - Biswaranjan Rout

 

Shahbaz had a dream 2019-20 season, where as an all-rounder, he held his own with both bat and ball to help Bengal reach its first Ranji Trophy final in 13 years, eventually losing to Saurashtra. The 25-year-old left-arm spinner scored 509 at 36.35 and picked 35 wickets, his match haul of 11 in a virtual knockout against Punjab in a low-scoring thriller standing out. 

Shahbaz has an understanding of what his role could be within a star-studded RCB line-up, but insisted that he is committed to play whatever part is needed. "Once I get there, they [the RCB coaching staff] will fill me in on what they expect of me, and I will prepare accordingly," he said. "Our head coach Simon Katich has been in touch. We've discussed things about my game and how he would like me to perform in different situations."

Shahbaz has been training in his hometown Mewat, a district in Haryana, for the past 15 days. "There's a gym close to where I stay, so thankfully I've had no trouble staying in shape during the lockdown," he said. "I've focussed on all three departments: batting, bowling and fielding. I've been picked as an all-rounder and should be able to do justice to my role if selected in the XI."

He has been following Cricket Association of Bengal's (CAB) training schedule from last season, but is "expecting one from the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) soon." 

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