Covid-19 Pandemic continues to rock the cricket world. The new variant of the virus found in the UK and the subsequent travel sanctions have made the matter worse.
This time, it may not result in the cancellation or postponement of the tour like the one we saw in South Africa for the ODI leg of the England tour of South Africa a fortnight back due to the concerns about the bio-security of the Cape Town team hotel.
England cricket team came back home on 10th December from South Africa and are supposed to travel to Sri Lanka for a short two-test tour on 2nd January 2021.
Now there are a couple of things that could have put this Sri Lanka tour in jeopardy. On one side, UK government, after discovering a new coronavirus variant and linking it to the two recent arrivals from South Africa, asked anyone returning from South Africa in the past fortnight to quarantine immediately.
However, the English team has been following stringent protocols since coming back from Africa. Extra measures have been taken under Elite Sports International guidance which mandates the players to undergo regular symptoms and testing checks.
ECB confirmed that this had helped England players to avoid the compulsory quarantine imposed by the UK government. Otherwise, they were looking at the spending the Christmas and New Year’s Eve in quarantine.
The new Covid variant is 70% more virulent and causing a massive uptick in positive cases in the UK.
Looking at the new virus variant, the Sri Lanka government has suspended all direct flights from Britain. Fortunately, the English team is allowed to Sri Lanka on a chartered plane – the same arrangement they used while returning home from South Africa.
As it stands now, both the cricket boards seem to be satisfied with the current arrangement and have given a go for the tour scheduled to be on 14th January.
Of course, there is some anxiety, especially over the new virus variant, but the officials seemed confident about the tour going ahead unchanged.
The English cricket team will charter an aircraft to Sri Lanka.
The English team will be travelling on a chartered plane to Hambantota, Sri Lanka on 2nd January. They will undergo testing before leaving for Sri Lanka. Once they reach there, the English team will have to be in quarantine for 3 days after which there will be another round of Testing.
If negative PCR tests are returned after 3 days, the English team players will be allowed to train, though not in a group.
Eventually, after 6 days after arrival, and assuming there are no positive cases, the English team can practice as a team. And only after spending time in the bio-secure bubble after 10 days from arrival can they mix with the Sri Lankan team players.
Effectively the English players can mix with the Sri Lankan counterparts exactly before a day from the first Test’s start on 14th January.
The Sri Lanka cricket team is currently in South Africa on tour – the new variant’s source causing problems in the UK.
To make matters interesting, Sri Lanka cricket team is currently in South Africa, where the new variant is said to have originated. So, when England players arrive in Sri Lanka, they will not have any Sri Lankan Test players to mingle with anyway since they will be in South Africa playing the second Test match from 3rd to 7th January.
This means that the Sri Lankan team would be playing the home Test 14th January within a week from returning to the home country.
Needless to say, if something happens on Sri Lanka’s short tour of South Africa, and given the short time they have after returning home, the England tour of Sri Lanka might see some wobbles.
For it to go ahead as per the schedule, all the players involved in Sri Lanka, England, and South Africa for that matter, should follow the bio-secure bubble guidelines very seriously for any lapse would mean another tour abandonment in the world of cricket.