England will have only three days of net practice before the first Test against India after emerging from the strictest quarantine of the winter.
Those players making the trip from Sri Lanka to India will fly to Chennai on Wednesday where they will be quarantined in the hotel for six days, emerging on Feb 2 to practice outdoors for the time in India before the start of the Test series on Feb 5.
Ben Stokes, Rory Burns and Jofra Archer arrived in India on Sunday night after taking a commercial flight from London and will be released from quarantine on Saturday giving them five days practice before the Test, two days of which will be while their team-mates are still isolating in their rooms.
England are hopeful the players will be allowed to leave their rooms after three days and use the hotel gym on an individual basis. They will be given a one-hour slot but with no mixing allowed.
It is all subject to the players returning three negative PCR Covid tests over six days. England were allowed to train outside within 48 hours of arriving in Sri Lanka and in South Africa were able to leave the hotel and practice at Newlands within a day of arriving in the country. But the England series will be the first held in India during the pandemic and restrictions will be tight. After the problems in South Africa, where the one-day series was cancelled due to a Covid outbreak, England have been very satisfied with arrangements in Sri Lanka. England have a full-time Covid officer on tour with them as well as the ECB’s chief medical officer. Only one player, Moeen Ali, has returned a positive test during the pandemic.
With more than 10 million cases, India has recorded the second-largest number of Covid infections in the world behind the United States. To cut down on risk, the England tour has been limited to three venues and the two teams will travel on chartered aircraft. It was announced last week the first two Tests in Chennai will be played behind closed doors.
It is likely the same restriction will be in place for the two Tests in Ahmedabad. However, the Indian board is hopeful that its new gigantic Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, which seats 110,000 fans, will welcome some spectators for the T20 series in March. The England tour is seen as a dry run of India’s Covid security protocols before the IPL in April.