MUMBAI: Team India will fly to the United Kingdom in the first week of June, soon after the conclusion of the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on May 30, to participate in the final of the ICC World Test Championship and undergo a 14-day quarantine, similar to what they did in Australia.
The Ageas Bowl in Southampton is the preferred venue for the final given the Hilton hotel within the stadium premises. TOI understands that the England Cricket Board –which has hosting rights- has blocked the entire hotel between June 1-26 and is working along with the ICC to create the bio-secure bubble. The ICC has also decided to keep a reserve day for the Test match, although the playing conditions for the final haven’t been released yet. Considering England’s finicky weather, the governing body wants to ensure an extra day is in place in case rain plays truant with the Test. The Ageas Bowl has a capacity of 25,000.
The Indian team has said yes to a 14-day quarantine, in principle, with changes to be agreed upon at a later stage, as and when the situation changes with regards to Covid. “It’ll mostly be on the lines of the Australia tour where the initial three or five days will be in strict isolation, after which teams will be allowed to train while in quarantine,” said those in the know of developments.
The WTC final will begin on June 18 and conclude on 22nd, should it last for all five days.
“BCCI has taken the call not to ask the players to return to India after the WTC final. The idea is to stay there and acclimatise to the conditions before the Tests begin,” sources said.
India will continue to stay in England until the start of the Test series. They’ll return to India in August to play a white-ball series against South Africa, followed by a white-ball series against New Zealand. The T20 World Cup will begin in October and conclude in November, following which India and New Zealand will play a Test series here at home and India will then head to South Africa – towards the end of December – for a full-fledged tour.
In such a scenario, if the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) – led by Jay Shah – goes ahead with the Asia Cup this year, then it is clear that the key players won’t be available.
Asia Cup being proposed for June end, second-string squad likely
Postponed last year due to the pandemic, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) is now proposing for the Asia Cup to be held towards the end of June in Sri Lanka. It is learnt that top officials of the BCCI have been locked in a meeting with the ACC to confirm the window and the tournament.
If the Asia Cup goes ahead, the BCCI is all set to send a second-string squad for the tournament as key players of the Indian team will be in England, post the WTC final, preparing for the Test series there. The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya – among others – will not play the white-ball tournament which will be played in the Twenty20 format this year.
“There’s no other choice. We can’t risk the preparation for the series in England. And cricketers can’t twice undergo quarantine. If the Asia Cup happens, India will have no option but to send a second-string squad,” top sources confirmed.