India head coach Ravi Shastri’s book launch in London was already under heavy scrutiny since the cancellation of the fifth and final Test against England. Now, an attendee of the launch has revealed how there was a sense of disregard among those present when it comes to the necessary social distancing norms.
In a report by news.com.au published on Saturday (September 11), it was stated how the presence of as many as 150 maskless members of the public only mounted the issue which unleashed itself later on at the Old Trafford ahead of a Test match that never took place.
Now an attendee has told Daily Mail that the whole launch “was horrid”, adding that “no one wore masks, apart from waiting staff. It left me feeling very uncomfortable. Everyone there went over to Shastri to meet him.”
The Australian news publication mentioned in their report that the presence of so many members in Shastri’s book launch was without an official permission from England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Covid compliance committee.
This is not the first time that Ravi Shastri has been involved in a breach of the health safety norms this year. News.com.au reported that the Indian head coach was not adhering to the protocols even during India’s 2020-21 tour of Australia.
“Back in January, an unmasked Ravi Shastri defiantly marched past security onto the SCG for a training session,” the report stated.
“Every other member of the Indian touring party donned a mask as they hopped off the team bus, but the head coach had no interest in joining them.”
At a time when New South Wales was tackling the viral outbreak, any such breach could’ve easily put the Sydney Test under the threat of cancellation. Cricket Australia (CA) allowed only 10,000 spectators to enter SCG per day for the New Year’s Test, with other protocols implemented to try and avoid the virus’ spread.
Australian journalist Malcolm Conn, who was working for Cricket NSW when the Test match was on, tweeted how Shastri was “railing everyday against health protocols” , which could’ve led to the cancellation of the Test in SCG along the lines of Manchester Test fiasco.
Ravi Shastri’s book launch under scanner amid Manchester Test controversy
Only a few days out from the launch, Shastri tested positive for Covid-19 along with India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and senior physio Nitin Patel during the fourth Test at The Oval.
All four individuals were shifted to a separate isolated bubble while the Indian team got on with the game and then preparations for the Test series finale in Manchester.
But then, before the Test was due to start on Friday (September 10), assistant physio Yogesh Parmar too gave a positive test and that led to a lot of anxiety and concerns within the Indian camp.
Even though Virat Kohli & company gave two repeated negative tests from Thursday afternoon, they didn’t want to risk ending up in a situation where members of the playing group return positive in the duration of the game.
Thus, the Indian team opted out of playing the Test match “due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid cases inside the camp.”
It is not yet clear whether the Manchester Test will count as a forfeited one or will stay as a “cancelled” affair. But one thing is confirmed, India’s withdrawal has been a massive blow to ECB who, ESPNcricinfo reported, could be facing lost revenue from the game of up to “AUD 56.4 million.”
On the day the match was called-off, ECB CEO Tom Harrison said it is “a sad for Test cricket” globally. And as per The Telegraph, the ECB is indeed looking at Shastri’s book launch as a serious cause of things drastically going down for what had otherwise been a safe and sound Test series.
In his argument, Shastri can say that he never broke a strict protocol set by the England board as neither the Indian team nor the English side were placed in a bubble for the series.
However, in a report by Times of India, a BCCI official stated that board secretary Jay Shah had suggested the team not to attend crowded events and maintain social distancing. This official accused Shastri of not taking any permission from the Indian board before going ahead with his book launch.
“This wasn‘t an official event that either of the boards had organised,” the BCCI official told The Times of India.
“The action of the team hasn’t gone down well with the (BCCI) Board. This incident has left the Board embarrassed.”
Sadly, shades are being thrown at the Indian players as well, with claims that they wanted to avoid delaying their departure from UK to join their respective IPL teams at the earliest ahead of the second half of the league’s 2021 edition.
Positive tests within the playing group during the Manchester Test would’ve forced the players to enter another week or ten days’ long quarantine and that would’ve meant missing early games of the UAE leg of IPL 2021.
Many of the Indian players reached UAE on Saturday (September 11) via chartered flights arranged by their respective IPL franchises.