The launch of Ravi Shastri's book 'Stargazing: The Players in My Life' left 4 of India support staff including the head coach himself Covid-positive. The event was full of unmasked attendees owing to relaxation of rules across the UK but did Shastri and Kohli pay heed to BCCI's health protocols?
The stage was set and it was there for the taking. India registered yet another comeback win in the fourth Test at The Oval and took an unassailable 2-1 lead. The fifth and final Test in Manchester had India as the firm favourites. Going by the momentum and the attitude of the upbeat Indian team, either it was a win for the visitors or a washout due to rain.
Team news had also started doing the rounds and Ravichandran Ashwin was on the cusp of getting up from that bench he warmed for the first four Tests. A fit again Mohammed Shami was set to replace Mohammed Siraj who looked worn out and unimpressive in London. But was he the only one who failed to impress a week ago? Yes, Ajinkya Rahane too but there were others who surpassed them!
Ahead of the Day 4 of the aforementioned Test, Ravi Shastri returned positive for Covid-19 following lateral flow test. Bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and physio Nitin Patel -- the close contacts of the head coach were isolated for precaution. RT-PCR tests were conducted as Shastri, Sridhar and Arun returned positive.
All these happened days after the public book launch event. Captain Virat Kohli and his teammates were present as well but the match moved on regardless. India won it by 157 runs, took a 2-1 lead and was already preparing for delivering the final punch, but alas, assistant physio Yogesh Parmar also tested positive on the eve of the Manchester clash.
It has been learnt that neither Shastri nor Kohli took any written permission from the BCCI on attending the function at the team hotel. It is also being reported that some 'notable players' were apprehensive about taking the field.
In such a scenario common sense of Kohli, Shastri and senior players is bound to be questioned. Why didn't they show apprehension while attending the super spreader event at the five-star facility?
If sources are to be believed the incident has left BCCI embarrassed and an explanation will be sought.
Ravi Shastri-Virat Kohli should be questioned harshly by @BCCI with the book launch in UK when ECB didn't acquire clearance.— Wickets11 (@Wickets112) September 10, 2021
Its clearly a breach. Shastri and other support staff were found COVID +ve later
Such carelessness on official tour#shastri #kohli #ManchesterTest pic.twitter.com/DOqs0Ahtiq
Shastri's tenure is set to end with the completion of the T20 World Cup and Kohli's stature is known to all. Who faces the brunt then? Maybe, Girish Dongre, the team manager, will be made the scapegoat.
“Photos from the event have been shared with BCCI officials. The board will probe the matter. This incident has left the board embarrassed. The coach and the captain will be asked to explain the circumstances after the fourth Test at Oval. The team’s administrative manager Girish Dongre’s role is also under the scanner,” a top BCCI official was quoted as saying by TOI.
“This wasn’t an official event that either of the boards had organised. This incident is all the more unsettling because BCCI secretary Jay Shah had written to every team member before the series, asking them to be cautious and refrain from attending crowded events. The action of the team hasn’t gone down well with the board,” the official had added.
Shastri's book titled 'Stargazing: The Players in My Life' contains descriptions of over 50 players who the 59-year-old has come across in his ongoing journey. It talks about what made these superhuman cricketers larger than life figures. That said, there was this Manchester Test and a probable 3-1 series win which could have added one more feather in his already illustrious career as a cricketer, a commentator and a coach, who guided India to two back-to-back series wins Down Under.
There was a lot in store for Kohli as well. The vociferous captain keeps on talking about focus and intent. The latter has always been there but there was lapse in focus this time. For now, he appears to miss out on an opportunity to become only the second India captain after Rahul Dravid to win a Test series in England in the last three decades.