Sam Curran has been ruled out of the remainder of England's Test series in India due to the logistical difficulties of travelling solo during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead he will now rejoin the squad on February 26, midway through the third Test, along with the rest of England's white-ball players ahead of the five T20I series in March.
Curran played in both of England's Tests against Sri Lanka last month, claiming three wickets at 38.00 in the 2-0 series win. However, instead of then flying on to Chennai for the first Two Tests against India, he returned home alongside his fellow multi-format players, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood, for a pre-arranged break from the team's biosecure bubble.
Bairstow and Wood have now returned to training following their quarantine period, and expect to be available for selection when the third Test gets underway in Ahmedabad next week. Curran, however, was granted an extended break, given that he had been in locked-down environments since the start of the England Test summer in July, including his stint with Chennai Super Kings at the IPL.
According to the ECB, the original plan had been for Curran to fly to Ahmedabad in time to make himself available for the fourth Test, starting on March 4.
But, with no direct flights available from the UK, and the cost of a charter flight being prohibitive for a solo passenger, Curran would have been required to make a stop-over en route - a situation that could have made social distancing problematic, especially in the event of issues arising during his transit period.
Furthermore, had any fellow passenger on a commercial flight tested positive on arrival in India, Curran would have run the risk of being placed in isolation before he had the opportunity to join up with the rest of the England squad.
"On the basis of the above, and to give Sam the best chance of minimising his risk of exposure to the virus, it was decided to delay his return so that he could travel on the charter flight with the white-ball squad members due to fly on 26 February," an ECB spokesman said.
The journey that Curran's team-mates endured in rejoining the England Test squad may have been a factor in the decision to postpone his trip. Speaking to the media on Thursday, Bairstow related how he, Wood and other members of the ECB back-room staff had had to take a seven-and-a-half-hour bus journey from Bangalore to Chennai, and navigate the difficulties of social distancing, even before the rigours of their six-day quarantine period.
"The journey [home] was fine, we just flew into Heathrow," Bairstow said. "The journey back out was four hours down to Heathrow where we nearly broke down, which was interesting. Then we had the flight out to Bangalore. We arrived there, had our tests and had to wait in the airport for our results to be negative.
"Then we had a seven-and-a-half-hour bus journey across India to Chennai. We weren't allowed to stop on that journey either, which was interesting. I'll let you have your own thoughts about how that trip was.
"We went to our bedrooms, where unfortunately there wasn't any fresh air which naturally made the quarantine period tough. We go through that, all the tests came back negative, and rejoined the group a couple of days ago.
"It's tricky with the logistics, the quarantine periods. It's especially very tricky when you're on a plane with other people. You've been quarantined at home effectively, because you don't want to contract the virus for your loved ones within your family, but also you don't want to contract the virus because then then you can't board a plane to come out to rejoin the tour.
"But then you're on a plane with people you've never met, and then you get to the airport and are greeted by a lot of loving Indian supporters and fans. It can be tricky trying to make sure you're doing everything you can in your remit to make sure you don't get the virus, but then there's things you can't help, like other people and the spaces they get into.
"You're then quarantined in your rooms hoping you haven't caught anything on the journey over because you'd be in the room for another 14 days. Yes, it is quite mentally taxing."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket