Did the Indian cricketers ignore the bubble-to-bubble transfer offer of BCCI, several weeks before the Manchester Test match cancellation? Sources told India Ahead that the BCCI had offered its cricketers to get into a 10-day strict bubble around the Manchester Test, weeks before some of the support staff were tested positive with covid-19. The board had also suggested a transfer of this bubble from Manchester to UAE as safety precautions. A document relating to the health and safety protocol distributed for the 2021 UAE leg suggests an option called “a bubble-to-bubble transfer” in bold letters.
The process was so simplified that even the players could have joined their respective IPL teams without a mandatory quarantine period if the Manchester bubble was in place. Even the Test match could have happened without an ounce of fear.
On seeing reluctance from a member of Team India to enter a stricter bubble again, BCCI then made provisions for a smooth entry of the players into UAE to join their respective teams. But the moment the support staff were tested positive with COVID-19, the smooth transition went for a toss. The Indian cricketers showed unwillingness to play the last Test resulting in cancellation and blame-game. A mandatory six-day quarantine in the UAE for the Indian cricketers — could have been avoided.
Explaining the safety protocol for the 2021 UAE leg, BCCI said in the guideline document: “After the conclusion of England vs. India series in the UK, Sri Lanka and CPL, the players, team support staff, commentators and broadcast crew continue to remain in their respective bio-secure environments and are transported in the team bus straight to the aircraft where they are exempted from immigration and other formalities at the departing airport. The team bus drops the players straight onto the tarmac there to avoid the need for players to pass through the airport terminal building, preventing contact with other people outside the bio-secure environment.”
The board took note of this incident. “This is not the right way. We will certainly address the issue. There is a serial offender here. If there was a bubble in England, the team could have gone for a book launch without proper authorization,” a source revealed.
Interestingly, another board official confirmed that there was no strict bubble in England after those initial days. There was, of course, a travel restriction on the players, but no one was in a strict regime during the four-Test match. Without taking permission, the players attended events, and even the spectators in the stadium didn’t wear masks. On Day Three after the Manchester Test cancellation, there is still a talk about how the players could have opted for a bubble-to-bubble transfer from England to UAE.
With a few covid positive cases affecting the team, the players were petrified, and despite BCCI being willing to opt for the Test, the Indian team wasn’t ready. Despite testing negative in RT-PCR Tests, there was still a fear in the camp. “Perhaps, a Manchester bubble could have ensured the Test match happening and finishing on time,” the source added.
Sources confirmed that IPL participation and overall health issues during the tournament did play a role in canceling the Test match. But the BCCI, not for a moment, was against the conduct of the Manchester Test match. Even the ECB also confirmed it repeatedly. Eventually, the management of both the boards called off the Test after the ECB wanted India to forfeit the game. With the talk about India opting for a one-off Test later this year to compensate ECB’s loss of 40 million pounds, who’s the winner of the India-England series? Trust BCCI to find the best solution.