India vs England: Once UK opened for all, ECB did not opt for a series-specific bio-bubble | Cricket News – Times of India

MUMBAI: The travel from London to Leeds, after India won the Lord’s Test match in the third week of August, coincided with the UK government opening the entire country from all Covid restrictions. The Indian team arrived at the city scheduled to host the third Test match and checked into a five-star hotel situated in the city-centre before beginning their preparations.
Once the country was rid of all Covid restrictions, including doing away with basic virus-related protocols such as doing away with masks and social distancing, the whole of England became a bubble of its own.

In line with it, no separate bubble was allotted to Team India unlike the strict quarantine and isolation in Southampton when Virat Kohli & Co. had first landed there in July to play the World Test Championship (WTC) final.
Upon checking-in at the hotel in Leeds, the team realized that the premises were open to common public, including the hotel’s restaurants and cafes. There were other guests staying in the same hotel and using the same lifts as players.
“It was the same in Manchester too, where we have once again been put up at a hotel in the city-centre that is open to everyone. Only in Nottingham, the entire hotel was occupied by just the two teams because it was even smaller compared to the ones at Leeds and Manchester,” says a member of the traveling Team India contingent.
At no point was the team asked to get into a bio-secure bubble. “So, what we don’t understand is, what bubble or Covid-related precautions are everybody talking about when the whole country itself is free and open for all? The player goes into a lift and there’s an outsider using it at the same time. If you walk into the hotel restaurant, it’s open for all. So, what restrictions? So, the danger was either always lurking or nobody – including the cricket boards – cared,” the individual adds.

Anyone familiar with hotels in England will know that barring certain properties, most are relatively cramped, and space is always premium.
“The stadium was packed on all match days at all venues. The hotel lobbies saw fans doing the rounds. Did anyone take ‘Jarvis’ for a Covid-check after he streaked the grounds?”
For instance, when the country had not opened up from Covid protocols, during the Lord’s Test, the entire balcony and the Long Room at the Lord’s was empty, and nobody was allowed access to the players’ area. Cut to Leeds, crowds surrounded players’ dugouts and the passage that players used to enter and leave the dressing room from the field.
It was in such chaos that the team returned from Leeds to London once again for the fourth Test at Oval and was put up at the Taj. Battered after the Headingley loss, the team was busy regrouping when they realized that Taj London was inaugurating its ‘Chambers’ and the who’s who of the city and guests from India were on the guest list.
“I wouldn’t like to take names but there were such high-profile individuals all attending the inauguration. The brand-new ‘Chambers’ was packed. It’s like nobody cared about Covid. The city and the country had been opened for business and life as usual,” say those who were present in the hotel that week.
It is during this time when India coach Ravi Shastri also scheduled his book launch. At the launch were many guests who were not staying at the Taj but were guests for many events that were scheduled inside the hotel premises.
“If Ravi caught the virus at the launch, then so should have so many other high-profile guests, the Indian team, cricket board officials. It’s not like they’ve not got themselves tested. Everybody is negative. The entire team has tested negative. So, there’s no reason to blame Ravi or for that matter any individuals in that situation.
“Let’s get this right – nobody has had any control over this virus. Kumar Sangakkara was scheduled to do commentary at the Leeds Test but couldn’t because he and his entire family was down with Covid. But the following week, he was at the Taj, attending Ravi’s function, and at the stadium, doing commentary. How does one pin-point this at anyone?” sources say.
The ECB, in the end, did not mandate any specific protocols or enhanced bio-bubbles for both the teams. So, to now point a finger and specify where exactly did individuals contract Covid is nearly impossible. “There’s another question. Is everybody in the England camp doubly vaccinated? We would like to know,” they add.
Further, the bigger question: Why did the ECB not bring on board a specialist IT and Safety firm to manage their bio-bubbles like the IPL had done in 2020?
Questions are galore as both BCCI and ECB continue to debate the future of this fifth Test.

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