Rohit, Gill, Pant expected to play 3rd Test despite bubble probe

Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini, who have been put in isolation after a video emerged showing them sitting indoors in a restaurant in Melbourne, in an alleged breach of Cricket Australia’s bio-security protocols, have been asked to train separately from the rest of the squad.

The five Indian players—Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini—who are at the centre of an alleged breach of Cricket Australia’s bio-security protocols, are expected to play in the third Test beginning Thursday at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) despite an ongoing investigation by the BCCI.

The five players, who were put in isolation after both the Australian and Indian cricket boards launched an investigation into a video showing them sitting indoors in a restaurant in Melbourne on Friday, have been asked to train separately from the rest of the squad and it could be possible that they will travel on Monday separately from the squad.

Indian players celebrate the dismissal of Australian batsman during the second Test match in Melbourne. (Right) The five Indian players inside a restaurant.

According to a Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) report, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is expected to take a “pragmatic approach” should it find the quintet had breached the bio-security protocols. Cricket Australia cannot sanction the said players even if their rules are found to have been broken as the quintet are not their employees, the SMH report further stated.

“If you carefully read the CA statement, they never said that it’s a breach. They said that they are seeking to determine if it’s a breach. So there is no restriction on these five players travelling with the team to Sydney. The entire team is flying tomorrow afternoon,” a senior BCCI official told news agency PTI on conditions of anonymity.

For BCCI, the man under scanner is administrative manager Girish Dongre. Dongre is an employee of the BCCI and is supposed to handle and also keep the the team abreast about the Covid-19 protocols. “The players are not supposed to carry the protocol sheets or remember every fine line written,” another BCCI official told PTI. “There is a professional team of people who have to ensure that every rule is being followed and it was Dongre’s duty to ensure that players are told that they can’t get into an indoor area,” he added.

The Indian side on Sunday boarded two buses to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for a gym session after their practice session was cancelled due to rain.

Gill boarded a team bus to return to the hotel with several other members of the touring party after training but a spokesman for the Indian side said social distancing requirements were met, the report claimed.

According to the publication, Friday’s incident was not the first time that Indian players seemingly breached the bio-secure protocols.

India captain Virat Kohli and limited-overs all-rounder Hardik Pandya were also pictured at a shop in Sydney in early December during the white-ball leg of the tour.

There have been reports emerging about Team India’s reluctance to play the fourth and final Test of the ongoing series in Brisbane due to harsher bio-security protocols in Queensland.

However, members of the Queensland government have stated that the Indian team should not enter the state if they are unwilling to coordinate with the protocols that have been laid out.

The Australian media on Sunday claimed that the fourth Test in Brisbane has been jeopardised as the tourists are reluctant to travel there in view of stricter quarantine rules.

But it is learnt that the fourth Test, starting at the Gabba from 15 January, is on as of now.

The border restrictions between New South Wales (venue of third Test in Sydney) and Queensland state government is a problem. Queensland has closed its borders for people travelling from New South Wales due to the rising cases of COVD-19 in Sydney and surrounding areas.

However, there will be an exception made for the Test match and players will be in a stricter bio-bubble, similar to the one in the IPL.

It could well happen that in order to play the Test match in Brisbane, the Indian team would have to be in a stricter bio-bubble from Sydney itself which would make for a hard quarantine (hotel-stadium-hotel) of around 15 days.

However, as of now BCCI has not taken any call on asking CA to shift the Test match from Brisbane to Sydney. Reports have emerged that the Indian team isn’t keen on travelling to Brisbane if the players are forced to undergo quarantine.

However, members of the Queensland government have stated that not abiding by the rules is not an option for the visitors. “If the Indians don’t want to play by the rules, don’t come,” Queensland’s Health Shadow Minister Ros Bates was quoted as saying by Fox Sports. Tim Mander, Queensland’s Shadow Sports Minister, said there’s no room for ignoring the protocols and that every individual would have to go through the same drill. “If the Indian cricket team wants to spit the dummy and disregard quarantine guidelines in Brisbane for the fourth Test, then they shouldn’t come. The same rules must apply for everyone. Simple,” Mander said.

The ongoing four-match series is currently tied at 1-1 with Australia winning the first Test in Adelaide while India registering a win in the second in Melbourne.


BCCIRishabh PantRohit SharmaShubman Gill