Mithali Raj-led Team India are set to tour to the United Kingdom in August for a tri-series — comprising the host and South Africa. The decision was finalised after England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) both agreed over the resumption of women’s cricket.
While a formal announcement is expected to come soon, this will be the first series of any Indian team returning to action ever since the lockdown started on March 23 due to the global pandemic novel coronavirus outbreak. Notably, they were supposed to tour to the UK in June.
As the situation in a few places are getting better slowly, England are all set for their first series against West Indies. Even Pakistan men’s teams have toured England for a full-fledged series. It is understood that if things go according to the plan, Team India will depart from Bengaluru or Mumbai between August 15-23 depending on the procedures.
However, the India women’s team will nearly follow the same procedures the West Indies and Pakistan men’s teams had to follow. Apart from taking care of the squad’s safety in England amid this situation in a series set to be conducted in a bio-bubble. Moreover, the BCCI will also face the problem of appointing selectors for the tour to be finalised as the women’s selection panel headed by Hemlata Kala is virtually non-existent for more than three months now.
However, both West Indies and Pakistan teams were put in bio-secure environments after undergoing COVID-19 tests and later they got permission to train and practice. Meanwhile, it is not clear where the team will be based out of since Southampton is considered as a possible host. Since Pakistan and England also based out of the port city during August end, the BCCI might look at the alternate venue to ensure more safety of the players.
On the other hand, holding any camp before they depart to the UK, looks uncertain given the COVID-19 situation in most of the cities. However, a few of the players might resume their training after July 15 if the situation improves in their respective places. For the BCCI, it will certainly be a challenge to assemble the whole team in one city and host a camp as different states have different quarantine procedures amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
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However, it is understood that players will assemble either in Bengaluru or Mumbai where COVID-19 tests will be conducted and after that, they will get permission to fly. Indications are that the players might go through a couple of tests before they leave for the UK in a chartered flight.
“As of now, unless the COVID-19 situation worsens, it’s only a matter of getting the government go-ahead,” quoted a BCCI insider as saying. However, on January 18, the BCCI had started inviting applications for the five vacant posts, along with two each in the senior and junior men’s selection committees as well. Only the vacancies in senior men’s panel have filled up.
Kala confirmed on Wednesday that they are not in the charge now and many former India women international players have applied for the job. They are currently waiting for the BCCI’s response. “I have been in touch with others who had applied. None of us have heard anything from the BCCI since January 24, which was the deadline for submitting applications,” said a candidate on anonymity.
While 16 players usually travel with any touring teams, the number might increase amid this situation given the critical situation. The BCCI will also send additional medical staff with the team as the temperature of the players needs to check on a daily basis. The Indian team will get a couple of weeks to train in England before the tri-series begins.
The series is important for every team as the 50-over World Cup scheduled to take place in New Zealand next year in February-March. Notably, Team India have already sealed their place for the tournament.