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5 Indian players in isolation; investigation into alleged breach of COVID protocol: Cricket Australia

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Melbourne: Five India Test players, including vice-captain Rohit Sharma, opener Shubman Gill and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, have been placed in isolation and an investigation launched into a possible breach of the COVID-19 bio-security protocol by them, Cricket Australia said on Saturday.

This was after a fan put out a video of the players eating at an indoor restaurant on Twitter on Friday. He claimed to have been seated close to them and also talked about getting a hug from Pant after he paid for the players’ meal. He later retracted the claim about the hug after it raised serious questions on a breach of protocol.

The BCCI brass had initially ruled out any investigation after reports of possible breach first appeared in the media here, but Cricket Australia’s late statement said a joint probe is on and the five have been isolated from the team.

“The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA) were today alerted to a video post on social media that purported to show Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini eating at an indoor venue in Melbourne on New Year’s Day,” CA said in a statement.

India and Australia are engaged in a four-Test series right now and the third match is due to start on January 7 in Sydney.

As per protocol, players are allowed to eat out in outdoor settings, following social distancing norms.

“The BCCI and CA are investigating the matter and seeking to determine whether the outing constitutes a breach of bio-security protocols.”

The isolation protocols were put in place after consulting with medical teams.

“…on the advice of the Australian and Indian medical teams, the aforementioned players have been placed in isolation as a precaution.

“This will include separating the group of players from the broader Indian and Australian squads when travelling and at the training venue,” CA further stated.

However, the players will be permitted to train in accordance with the protocols that have been put in place.

It is understood that as per bio-security protocols provided by Cricket Australia, players were told not to have meals at indoor restaurants. They are supposed to not avail any public transport but allowed a walk around the cities where they are playing.

Questions are now being raised as to whether the administrative manager and the cricket operations point person, who are looking after all the modalities, were aware about the players’ movement and made them aware about the specific rules for dining out.

Rohit had recently completed 14 days of hard quarantine in Sydney and started training in Melbourne only a couple of days back.

Earlier, a senior Indian cricket board official told that the visiting contingent is “well aware” of the COVID-19 protocols and had not violated any of them.

“No, there has been no breach in bio-security protocols. Everyone associated with the Indian team is well aware of the protocols,” the senior BCCI official had said in the morning.

“We can only term it as a malicious spin by a section of Australian media and this has started after their humiliating defeat,” he added.

India crushed Australia by eight wickets in the second Test in Melbourne, making an incredible comeback days after the debacle in the four-match series opener in Adelaide.

The bio-security bubbles have been put in place to ensure that the players are not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world for months now, with parts of Australia reporting fresh outbreaks in recent times.

This had also put the future of the third Test in Sydney in doubt before CA clarified that it would not be shifted to Melbourne.

The match will begin on January 7 and the two teams will arrive in Sydney a couple of days before the scheduled start.

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