Cricket-India's Pant and net bowler test COVID-19 positive in England

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By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and a member of the support staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in England ahead of their five-test series starting next month, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said on Thursday.

The India players were given a three-week break after losing the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in Southampton last month.

"Pant, who had not stayed in the team hotel during the break period, tested positive on 8th July. He is asymptomatic and currently undergoing self-isolation," BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.

The 23-year-old must return two negative RT-PCR tests before he can join the rest of the squad in Durham where Virat Kohli's team will play a three-day warm-up match from Tuesday.

Net bowler Dayanand Garani tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, while bowling coach Bharat Arun, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and batsman Abhimanyu Easwaran were deemed his close contacts.

"The four personnel will undergo 10-day isolation and will remain in their respective rooms in the team hotel in London," Shah said.

England had their own COVID-19 crisis recently and were forced to field a new one-day side against Pakistan after three players and four support staff tested positive.

Virat Kohli and his team will play a three-day game behind closed doors against a County Select XI to prepare for the test series beginning in Nottingham on Aug. 4.

Warwickshire captain Will Rhodes will lead the County XI which includes recent test debutant James Bracey and Nottinghamshire opener Haseeb Hameed.

"The county players will... undergo COVID testing before being cleared to play in the match," the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement on Thursday.

India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin got some match practice playing for Surrey, claiming six second-innings wickets in their drawn County Championship match against Somerset on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Robert Birsel and Ken Ferris)

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