After the news of five India team players—Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini—eating inside a Melbourne restaurant on Friday came out, attention is being drawn to other such incidents that could be termed a breach of Cricket Australia’s (CA) protocols for teams during the ongoing tour.
A picture purportedly taken in Canberra on December 1 of India skipper Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya posing with some fans a day before the third ODI has emerged. The selfie is clicked in the open but Kohli and Pandya are not wearing masks and the 1.5-metre distance from the fans does not seem to be observed. There has been no comment from CA if it amounted to a breach. The India team management said no protocols were flouted.
According to a BCCI source in the know of things, the players are adhering to the protocols issued by the state governments under which each venue came. “We did the strict 14-day quarantine where we didn’t even step out of our rooms except for training. On completion and clearing the Covid tests, we have to follow the rules applicable for normal Australian citizens. That’s what the players are doing. In Canberra, there was no rule for wearing a mask. There were no cases in the city at that time,” said the source.
“Wherever we go, we follow the local rules. In Melbourne, we have to wear a mask for entering a mall or there is a fine. Mask is not mandatory while walking on the street,” the source added.
Australian media reported two other such minor breaches of players not wearing masks, while entering a shop and a restaurant. On December 7, Kohli and Pandya were in a baby shop in Sydney and posed for photos. They were not seen wearing masks in them. A week later in Adelaide, some Indian players went to an eatery (Waffle and Coffee). A couple of them went in to place the order without wearing masks.
While CA came down hard on Brisbane Heat after Chris Lynn and Dan Lawrence’s bio-security breaches in the early stages of the Big Bash League, fining the club A$50,000 ($20,000 suspended) and each player A$10,000 ($4,000 suspended), breaches by the Indian players are seen as minor. There is also confusion due to comparison with the bio-bubble that was in place for the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE. Any such incident in IPL would have led to strict action.
The bio-bubble in Australia is quite relaxed compared to IPL. In the Melbourne leg, players and staff are permitted to leave the hotel but must dine outdoors. There is a separate entrance and exit for the players at their hotel.
During IPL, Covid-19 tests were done every 3-4 days and players were restricted to their rooms and designated restaurant. They travelled to the stadium in the official vehicle/team bus. No outside food or interaction with people outside the squad was allowed.
In the series hosted by the England and Wales Cricket Board (against West Indies and Pakistan, the first fixtures after international cricket resumed), the restrictions were tougher. IPL franchises set up recreation rooms within the bubble to make life easier for the players. During the England series, at Southampton and Manchester, the players were confined to the stadium environment during the game as the team hotels were in the stadium premises.
England fast bowler Jofra Archer was banned for a Test for bio-security breach after he stopped at his house while travelling between Tests.