The confirmed case of the UK strain of Covid-19 in Brisbane could add to India's fears of playing the fourth Test at the Gabba. Apart from the obvious medical concern generated by the new strain, BCCI officials also worry that it could impact travel plans and upset the schedule for the home series against England.
That is one of the key issues outlined by the team management and the BCCI in their communication with Cricket Australia this week, ESPNcricinfo understands.
Though there is currently no special restriction on travel from Australia into India, the BCCI fears that the rules might change quickly to keep pace with the health implications, and impact the team. At present, all travellers from the UK to New Delhi - even those testing negative on arrival - have to serve a mandatory week-long institutional quarantine period and a further week of quarantine at home (though there is scope for exemption for those with connecting flights). If a rule like this is applied to the team, it would affect the cricket schedule. India are scheduled to fly out of Australia the day after the end of the Test series on January 19 and the England series is scheduled to start on February 5.
Over the past few weeks, the Indian team management has expressed its reluctance to travel to Brisbane more than once, mainly because of the hard quarantine protocol put in place by the Queensland government to deal with the Covid-19 situation. And now, with Brisbane under a three-day lockdown because of the reported case, the BCCI and the Indian team management are concerned.
The other reason for the Indians' concern, as reported earlier, is the possibility that they would be placed under severe restrictions during the Test in Brisbane, with the Queensland government's rule forcing them to only leave the team hotel for training and the match itself.
Earlier this week, the BCCI told Cricket Australia that it would not agree to players' movement being limited to the team hotels. Cricket Australia, which has booked hotels exclusively for the teams in both Sydney, where the third Test is currently on, and Brisbane, has in reply pointed out that the teams were free to mill around within the hotel in designated areas.
It is understood that Cricket Australia has also told BCCI that it was tough for it to find a replacement venue for the final Test considering most Test grounds across Australia have been hosting the Big Bash League matches. Another significant challenge of finding an alternate venue is that exemptions would be required to travel to a state other than Queensland, which the CA feels is impossible given the constraints.
The Indian team has suggested staying on in Sydney. However, it is understood that no request to prepare a second pitch at the SCG - the only viable venue should the Test need to be moved out of Brisbane - has been made yet.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo