Melbourne: Already beset by problems in the bowling department with its pace bowling line-up weakened due to injuries to Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, who wont play any further part in the series, the Indian cricket team could lose some of its top batsmen ahead of the third Test beginning January 7 in Sydney after five of its players were put in isolation for alleged breach of Cricket Australias bio-security protocols.
The team flies to Sydney on January 4.
But with Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini put in isolation after both the Australian and Indian cricket boards launched an investigation into a video showing them sitting indoors in a restaurant, India could end up being short on batting options for the third Test if the five players don’t come out of isolation on time.
Two of the five players in isolation, Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant, were part of the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and likely starters for the third Test. Gill opened the innings and impressed with 45 and 35 not out. Pant made a valuable 29 batting at No. 6 and put on 57 for the fifth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane after India were reduced to 116 for four in first innings.
With Rohit also completing his 14-day hard quarantine on arrival in Sydney and flying to Melbourne to join the team only on Wednesday, he was also a favourite to replace Mayank Agarwal as opening batsman in the third Test.
But with the period of isolation for the five not yet clear, there are doubts over India’s combination for the third Test. And assuming if one out of them tests positive for Covid-19 due to the alleged breach of protocols, none of the five or even those players who came in contact with them will play the third Test. In that case, the entire squad could have to go through a round of testing and put in isolation.
The five players have been asked to train separately from the rest of the squad and it could be possible that they will travel on January 4 separately from the squad.
The Indian team may have to gear up for harder lockdown and severe restrictions in Sydney and especially in Brisbane, which is allowing special exemption only to the players, support staff and match officials arriving from Sydney as otherwise its borders are closed to the arrivals from the state of New South Wales where Sydney is located.
Sydney has seen a spurt in cases recently with some of its areas, including those 30-odd km away from the Sydney Cricket Ground.