KANPUR: The new COVID-19 variant, which threatens to wreak havoc in South Africa, has led to significant concerns about India’s trip to the Rainbow Nation next month, and there may be changes in player quarantine rules in the coming days.
India is scheduled to play three Tests, three ODIs and four T20 Internationals at four venues – Johannesburg, Centurion, Paarl and Cape Town during a nearly seven-week mission starting on 17 December.
Cases are on the rise in the north of the country, and at least two venues for the test series – Johannesburg and Pretoria (near Centurion) – could become vulnerable to the spread of the new variant.
“Look, until we get a detailed picture of the situation on the ground from Cricket South Africa (CSA), we will not be able to tell our next step. According to the current plan, the Indian team is expected to leave either on December 8 or 9 just after the New Zealand series is over in Mumbai, “a senior BCCI official told PTI on Friday.
Right now the trip is underway, but it is understood that in the next few days BCCI will talk to Cricket South Africa about the detection of the new variant – B.1.1.529 – which has set alarm bells ringing all over the globe.
Researchers believe that the high number of peak mutations may make the new variant more resistant to vaccines, make it more transmissible and cause an increase in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
The BCCI official indicated that although players will be sent on a charter flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg, there is an option to put them through three to four days of harsh quarantine when they reach, given the changed circumstances.
“Originally there were no provisions for harsh quarantine, but players will of course remain in a bio-bubble. Now with more cases in South Africa and the EU also canceling flights temporarily, we need to take these aspects into account,” a senior BCCI said source.
PTI also came in contact with a member of the administrative staff who is currently in Bloemfontein with the India A team, which is in the middle of a ‘shadow ride’ of two unofficial tests.
“We did not undergo any harsh quarantine on arrival here as we arrived by charter plane and staying in a bio-bubble. After the outbreak, a medical team from Cricket South Africa had a meeting with our representatives over here.
“We were told there is nothing to worry about as the increase in cases is far away from Bloemfontein where we would also play our next match,” the official said over the phone.
He also stated that the team has been told that there has been an increase in cases in the northern part of the country.
“We were specifically told that Bloemfontein is unaffected by the increase in COVID cases, and that is also happening in the northern part of the country,” he added.
He also informed that as of Friday, the A team has not received any instruction from BCCI.
1st test: 17.-21. December: Wanderers, Johannesburg
2nd test: 26.-30. December: SuperSport Park, Centurion
3rd test: 3.-7. January: Newlands, Cape Town
1. ODI: Jan 11: Boland Park, Paarl
2. ODI: January 14: Newlands, Cape Town
3. ODI: January 16: Newlands, Cape Town
1. T20I: January 19: Newlands, Cape Town
2. T20I: January 21: Newlands, Cape Town
3. T20I: Jan 23: Boland Park, Paarl
4. T20I: Jan 26: Boland Park, Paarl.