Under-19 World Cup: Five reserve players to fly out to bolster Covid-hit Indian squad
Uday Saharan, Rishith Reddy, Ansh Gosai, Abishek Porel and Pushpendra Singh Rathore called up
The BCCI is sending five players to the Under-19 World Cup in the West indies as back-up following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian camp, with five players of the original squad in the Caribbean testing positive for the virus this week.
The five players being sent in as reinforcements are Uday Saharan, Abishek Porel, Rishith Reddy, Ansh Gosai and Pushpendra Singh Rathore.
On Wednesday, six India players were unavailable for selection for the fixture against Ireland. The group included captain Yash Dhull and vice-captain Shaik Rasheed. They, along with Aaradhya Yadav, Manav Parakh and Siddarth Yadav have also been ruled out of India's last group-stage game, against Uganda, scheduled for Saturday.
While Saharan, Reddy, Gosai and Rathore were all part of the travelling reserves announced by the BCCI before the World Cup, they did not travel to the Caribbean with the main squad. Porel, who was initially not part of the reserves, has made the cut in the place of Amrit Raj Upadhyay.
Left-arm spinner Upadhyay was originally picked among the reserves, but has been pipped by Porel, and the reason, ESPNcricinfo understands, is that he is a wicketkeeper. Aaradhya, the second keeper in the main squad, is currently in isolation, leaving the squad with only Dinesh Bana to wear the big gloves.
Saharan is a batter from Rajasthan, who hit 102 in the tri-series competition played between two India Under-19 sides and Bangladesh Under-19 late last year. Reddy is a right-arm seamer from Hyderabad who picked up 5 for 53 against Bangladesh Under-19s in the same tournament. Saurashtra's Gosai is a right-handed batter known for his innovative shot-making, and Rajasthan's Rathore is a batting allrounder.
Once the five reserves reach the Caribbean, they will have to serve a mandatory quarantine period before joining the team. They are currently not part of the main squad; the tournament's event technical committee will have to approve them before they can play in the competition.
It's possible that the committee will allow them only as temporary Covid-19 replacements, which comes with the caveat that they must exit the squad once the affected players return after recovery. If the BCCI so wants, these players can apply to be permanent additions to the squad, but that is usually done to replace injured players.
Although the five Covid-infected players are currently in isolation, they are expected to be available for India's quarter-final game, which likely be played on January 29. However, if their recovery takes longer or more players return positive tests or suffer injuries, the team management can dip into their reserves at short notice.
India, who became the first team in the competition to qualify for the quarter-finals, have their knockout fixture scheduled in another country, Antigua and Barbuda. This means the players who are currently in Trinidad and Tobago will have to return negative tests before they can fly out.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx