WTC Final: India’s Travel Despite Ban, Quarantine & Home Testing

The Indian team are expected to depart for England on 2 June.

4 min read
The Indian team are expected to depart for England on the 2 June.

The suspension of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in May has meant that Indian cricketers get a few extra weeks at home after a busy first half of the year. Having defeated Australia in Australia and then England at home in the last few months, Virat and co also managed to book a spot in the inaugural World Test Championship final that starts on 18 June, against New Zealand.

England had been awarded the hosting rights of the final even before the finalists were decided and the Rose Bowl Stadium in Southampton is where the match will be played.

But, with the United Kingdom announcing a ban on any non-UK citizens entering the country due to the spread of the pandemic in India, an official health advisory from the government is still awaited on the Indian team’s passage to the country.

“From 4am on Friday 23 April, visitors who have been in or transited through India in the previous 10 days cannot enter the UK. British and Irish nationals arriving in England from India will be required to quarantine in a hotel.”
UK Travel Advisory

While the travel advisory allowed the English cricketers in the IPL to return home after the suspension of the league and even members of the Kiwi Test team who were in India, will be heading to the UK over the weekend, reports suggest the Indian team’s entry into the country could be on condition of a hard quarantine as well. The ICC is currently in talks with the government to ensure India’s participation in the match, despite the ban.

“The ECB and other members have demonstrated how we can stage international cricket safely in the middle of a pandemic and we are confident that we can continue to do that and that the WTC final will go ahead as planned in June in the UK. We are currently discussing with the UK government the impact of countries being on the ‘red list’”.
ICC Statement

While the passage for travel has not been officially cleared as yet, the BCCI are believed to also be pushing to avoid having Indian players be bound to their hotel rooms for 14 days before the start of a big match.

So, what’s likely?

In Australia, the BCCI managed to have the Indian players serve a ‘soft quarantine’ of 14 days upon arrival in the country. Staying at a hotel on the outskirts of Sydney, the players were allowed to step out of their hotel rooms during the quarantine, but only to train at the ground, in small groups.

However, the entire Indian contingent were flying to the country on a charter flight straight from the UAE after the completion of the IPL, where everyone was already part of a bio-bubble.

Ahead of June’s tour though, the Indian players are all at home across the country, following the sudden suspension of the IPL season.

However, according to reports, the BCCI has already got the wheels in motion to start setting up a bio-bubble in India itself, before the team’s departure to the UK in the first few days of June.


A bio-bubble before the bubble?

Instead of staying locked for 14 days in a room in England ahead of an important Test match, the BCCI are believed to be setting up a ‘hard-quarantine’ bio-bubble in India itself. The wheels are already in motion with the board sending home tests for all players, their families and support staff who are travelling for the long tour of England.

Once players report negative in the home tests, they will start collecting in Mumbai around 18 May to start the two-week quarantine after which the team takes a charter flight to England around 2 June.

This, however, is what the BCCI has planned even as they await the formal travel advisory from the UK government, the co-ordination of which is being done by the ICC, who are the official hosts of the match.


What about the Kiwis?

According to the current UK travel advisory, the New Zealand team will serve a 10-day quarantine after landing in England. The squad will arrive in two parts with Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, and physio Tommy Simsek travelling from India, where they have been in quarantine after the suspension of the IPL, while the rest of the squad travels from New Zealand. All players are expected to land in England over the weekend.

Before the World Test Championship final, New Zealand are slated to play England in two Tests, starting 2 June and 10 June. The Kiwis at home in fact have been training for their Test outings over the last month with the entire squad already also having received the first shot of their vaccine.


But what about India’s practice?

Landing in England around 2 June, the Indian team will have over 14 days before the start of the WTC final but with quarantine guidelines still awaited, the board has not yet scheduled any practice matches against local clubs.

However, having named a 20-man squad along with four standby players, the Indian team is also likely to play some inter-squad matches in the lead up to the big game.

While India last played a Test match in March, having beaten England 3-1 at home, the the World Test Championship final will also mark the start of very long tour for Virat Kohli and his team. The match against New Zealand may be a one-off affair but the team will remain in England as they are scheduled to play the hosts in a five-match series starting 4 August. The tour will continue till 14 September.

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