Ravi Shastri, the head coach of the Indian team, returned a positive lateral flow (Covid-19) test on Saturday evening in London, and has subsequently been placed in isolation in the team hotel by the BCCI medical team “as a precautionary measure”. Along with Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar, and physiotherapist Nitin Patel are also isolating.
“They have undergone RT-PCR testing and shall remain in the team hotel and not travel with Team India until confirmation from the medical team,” a BCCI statement said on Sunday, less than half an hour before the start of play on the fourth day of the fourth England vs India Test at The Oval.
“The remaining members of the Team India contingent underwent two lateral flow tests – one last night and another this morning. The members upon returning negative Covid reports were allowed to proceed for Day 4 of the ongoing fourth Test at The Oval.”
ESPNcricinfo understands that in the absence of Desai, Yogesh Parmar, the second physiotherapist travelling with the team, will be with the team at The Oval, and help the players when needed during the fourth day’s play.
As such, the two teams are understood to have been in separate bio-secure environments, and have only interacted with each other in the middle, during play.
On the live broadcast, as the camera panned over the Indian dressing room, former England captain Nasser Hussain said, “The players are absolutely fine, but four of the backroom staff, including their influential coach, Ravi Shastri, are not here. We wish you well, all of you.”
Indian national-team players have had to deal with more than one Covid-19-related incident in recent times, and this, in fact, is the second time Arun has had to go into isolation since reaching England. The first time was in July when Arun, as well as squad members Wriddhiman Saha and Abhimanyu Easwaran, were forced to quarantine for ten days for being close contacts of training assistant/net bowler Dayanand Garani, who tested positive for Covid-19 on July 14.
That was not long after Rishabh Pant, the first-choice Test wicketkeeper, had tested positive for Covid-19 as well.
Even as the Indian team was grappling with these developments in England, the second-string team that had travelled to Sri Lanka to take part in a short series of limited-overs matches had their own Covid-19 issues to deal with. First, Krunal Pandya tested positive between the first and second T20Is – which had come after the ODIs – and eight other players, who were Pandya’s close contacts, had to go into isolation too.
Such was the situation that the second T20I had to be pushed back by a day, and even after that, India barely managed to field an XI.
After that, two more players, Yuzvendra Chahal and K Gowtham, also tested positive, and while the others returned home at the end of the tour, Pandya, Chahal and Gowtham had to stay back in Sri Lanka, complete their quarantine, and return home in the first week of August after returning negative tests.