Nagraj Gollapudi and George Dobell
The Manchester Test is back on. Its fate was in balance after India's assistant physio Yogesh Parmar tested Covid-19 positive on Wednesday evening. But the BCCI, after discussions with the Indian team management and the ECB as well, has now made it clear that the final Test of the Pataudi series will go ahead as scheduled. This was the most likely outcome as soon as the entire Indian squad were found to be negative for the virus, although they did have to deal with a day's worth of uncertainty.
Beyond the Manchester Test, the BCCI had also been concerned that Parmar testing positive could have a cascading effect on the second half the IPL, which starts in the UAE from September 19. On September 15, a bulk of the India and England players are scheduled to board charter flights to Dubai to join their respective IPL franchises.
The BCCI does not want the IPL to be impacted as it is scheduled to host the men's 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman two days after the IPL ends, on October 15.
On Thursday morning the BCCI's top brass conducted a virtual meeting with the Indian team management including captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri to figure a way forward. It is understood that the Indian players had been concerned about the threat of Covid-19 but they left the final decision with the BCCI.
Through Thursday the BCCI engaged in discussions with the ECB on the way forward in case more cases were to break out in the Indian camp. The BCCI also put out the option of cancelling the final Test, but the ECB is understood to have made it clear that it would interpret any refusal to play as forfeiture. The BCCI was keen to avoid such a scenario as not only would it see England square the series, but it could expose them to claims of lost revenue from broadcasters and the venue. The lost revenue could be up to £30 million (INR 306 crore).
The World Test Championship playing conditions, though, state that a Covid-19 outbreak within a team is an acceptable reason for a Test to be abandoned. With the WTC table now based on the percentage of points available, a four-Test series instead of five would not have impacted any side's final tally. In case the final Test had not been played, India would pocket 26 WTC points while England will have 14 out of the 48 that was available.
Parmar was found to be Covid-positive on Wednesday evening after he reported having symptoms at the end of a training session. He is the fourth member of the Indian contingent to test positive in the last week. On September 4, after the third day of the Oval Test, India head coach Ravi Shastri returned a positive test and the BCCI medical team identified Bharat Arun, R Sridhar and head physiotherapist Nitin Patel as the immediate contacts for Shastri.
The next morning Shastri along with Arun and Sridhar returned positive RT-PCR tests, thus sending them into ten-day quarantine. Patel, meanwhile, returned a negative test but remained in his room in London. He then travelled separately by road to Manchester where he is understood to be staying on a separate floor from the rest of the Indian squad at the team hotel.
At the moment, little is known about Parmar's immediate contacts. He has been treating several key Indian players for niggles, including Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. These players have been mingling among the wider group.
According to the UK government's Covid-19 guidelines, any person who receives a positive PCR test for Covid-19 is obliged to self-isolate for ten days. However, those identified as close contacts don't need to isolate themselves if they test negative and it has been more than 14 days since their second jab.
The ECB has relaxed its protocols around biosecure bubbles with its chief executive officer Tom Harrison declaring that "cricket must learn to live with Covid" and accept some "risks" while maintaining basic social distancing and medical guidelines That has allowed the Indians to travel on trains across England between the Tests and step out of team hotels and go for walks as well as sit at outdoor cafes. On the eve of the Oval Test, Shastri organised an event for his book launch that was attended by members of the public along with the Indian squad.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo. George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo