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News

Covid-hit India U-19s' concerns at World Cup: Depleted squad, travel worries ahead of knockouts

If India find themselves with fewer than 11 fit players, their fixtures could be rescheduled as per tournament rules

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
20-Jan-2022
Yash Dhull drives along the ground, India Under-19 vs South Africa Under-19, Under-19 World Cup, Providence, January 15, 2022

Captain Yash Dhull was among the players to miss out on India's game due to covid  •  ICC via Getty Images

Hours before the second match of their World Cup campaign, India U-19s reported a Covid-19 outbreak in Tarouba, Trinidad and Tobago, where six members of their 17-strong playing contingent had either tested positive for the virus or were showing symptoms of it. That meant India had no wiggle room in team selection for the Ireland game, fielding all remaining 11 players in the squad. India won the match by 174 runs, but what happens to the remainder of their tournament? ESPNcricinfo breaks down the big questions.
Who are the unavailable players?
India captain Yash Dhull, vice-captain Shaik Rasheed, batter Siddarth Yadav (Rapid Antigen) and wicketkeeper Aaradhya Yadav (RT-PCR) returned positive results. Allrounder Manav Parakh and seam bowler Vasu Vats have shown symptoms of Covid-19.
How does this affect India's last group-stage game against Uganda?
Having won their first two games against South Africa and Ireland, India are through to the quarter-final from Group B. Their final group game, at the same ground as the Ireland match, is against Uganda on Saturday, January 22.
The mandatory quarantine period for Covid-positive players is ten days, which means India will likely be forced to field the same XI from the last game. ​However, India do not have any substitute fielder or concussion sub available under the current circumstances.
...and what about their quarter-final game?
If favourites India win against Uganda, their quarter-final knockout fixture is on Saturday, January 29 and it could be against defending champions Bangladesh. But that game is on another island - Antigua and Barbuda - and only those who test negative will be allowed to fly out of Trinidad.
While the six players in quarantine are expected to complete their isolation period by then, they will have to present negative tests to get on the plane. Additionally, they will miss valuable team practice sessions, and it remains to be seen what their physical condition is at the end of the infection cycle.
What if more India players test positive?
ICC's head of integrity Alex Marshall had stated before the competition that "merely registering a positive PCR test result within a team will not result in the automatic postponement or cancellation of fixtures." So, as long as they have 11 players fit, India may have to fulfil their current scheduled fixtures.
But if they have less than 11 available, the tournament's Event Technical Committee will look to postpone India's fixtures or move their games to another venue - say, in Trinidad itself. This is stated in the competition's playing conditions and the same rule applies to every team that may find themselves in such a situation.
While this allows the ICC to be flexible with the running of the U-19 World Cup, their decision will be subject to the games being scheduled within reason and without unreasonably affecting the other teams or the competition.
Were the BCCI prepared for such situations?
The BCCI had announced five reserve players - Rishit Reddy, Uday Saharan, Ansh Gosai, Amit Raj Upadhyay, PM Singh Rathore - before the competition, but ESPNcricinfo understands they did not travel to the Caribbean. If they are needed, they will have to fly out to the Caribbean and serve a quarantine period before they can be added to the squad.
Some other teams, like England, announced a squad of only 15 players, and carried two reserve players. Therefore, they could make a swift change to their squad when the injured Sonny Baker was replaced by Benjamin Cliff on short notice.
The ICC limited the size for each contingent for the 2022 event to 27. In earlier editions, the touring contingent of a team could consist of 15 players and five support-staff personnel tops, but the global governing body, which takes care of costs for every squad, increased the overall strength of each team's travelling party by seven to account for any pandemic-induced uncertainties. Teams, however, are required to carry at least five support staff.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx