, Bharat Arun
and R Sridhar
, the head coach, bowling coach and fielding coach of the Indian team respectively, have returned positive RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 on Sunday. This will prevent them from travelling to Manchester for the fifth and final Test of India's tour of England, starting September 10 at Old Trafford.
The development also forced the BCCI medical team to ask the rest of the Indian squad - including the playing XI at The Oval
- to take RT-PCR tests on Monday morning, with all players testing negative and thus remaining available for the final Test at Old Trafford starting Friday.*
Nitin Patel, the team physiotherapist who, along with Arun and Sridhar, was identified as Shastri's immediate contact and was forced to isolate on Saturday after Shastri returned a positive test
, is understood to have returned a negative RT-PCR test.
As per UK government rules, those who return positive RT-PCR tests have to isolate for ten days and return two negative tests, so Shastri, Arun and Sridhar will have to stay on in London even as the series concludes in Manchester.
On Sunday, the fourth day of the Test, a BCCI press statement confirmed that Shastri had returned a positive lateral flow test on Saturday evening, and all four support staff members had been placed in isolation in the team hotel by the BCCI medical team "as a precautionary measure".
"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," the statement said. "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."
In the absence of Patel, Yogesh Parmar, the second physiotherapist with the team, was at The Oval for the fourth day of the ongoing Test match.
The BCCI is bound to be concerned about the development, considering the care that has been taken to ensure that the Indian team is cut off from the outside world, their movement restricted to the team hotels and the grounds. One possibility is that Shastri was infected the day before the first day of the fourth Test, on September 1, when he released his book - Stargazing: The Players in My Life - at the team hotel. The Indian travelling contingent had attended the event, and it is understood that a few outsiders were present too.
The England series will be the final assignment in Test cricket for Shastri, whose second stint as head coach began after the 2017 Champions Trophy and will run till the end of the T20 World Cup in October-November.
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 been affected 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 after being identified as 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.
*1820 GMT: The story was updated with the additional information of the playing XI testing negative