Despite eleven members of Pakistan’s squad and support staff testing positive for Covid-19, the Pakistan Cricket Board has provided assurances that their tour of England is on track.
Initially three players – Haider Ali, Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan – were revealed to have tested positive, before a further seven names – Fakhar Zaman, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan and Wahab Riaz – were added to the list a day later. In addition, one member of support staff, the team masseur Malang Ali, has also tested positive. As of now, all of them have been sent into self isolation.
None of the 35 players and support staff tested – including those who tested positive – were displaying symptoms before, according to PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan.
The squad is due to fly to the UK from Lahore on Sunday, ahead of three Test matches and three T20 internationals, to be played in ‘bio-secure venues’ from the start of August. Discussions are ongoing over Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl being the venues for the entire tour. The itinerary yet to be confirmed.
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“The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on June 28. Fortunately, all the first-choice red-ball squad, barring Mohammad Rizwan, are negative, which means they can start training and practising immediately after they have been tested and given the all-clear when they arrive in England,” Khan said.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) director of cricket Ashley Giles remains positive about the tour going forward but has also expressed his concerns. The ECB is counting on the series against the West Indies and Pakistan for revenue generation.
“We still are far enough out, even if a number of those results were still positive, but this is the difference with international sport. We need to get our opposition in [the] country. Anything that puts that at risk or in danger is clearly a problem,” Giles told the Associated Press.
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“All of this has uncertainty still, even to any degree the West Indies series, because we know how fast-moving this situation has been around the world,” Giles said.
The Pakistan players and support staff who have tested negative will gather ‘in a bio-secure environment’ at Lahore on June 24 and will undergo a second round of testing the next day. The ones that test negative will be given a green light to board a chartered flight to Manchester.
“Within 24 after hours after arriving in the UK, they will be tested by the ECB medical panel,” the PCB stated. The team will be expected to undergo a quarantine period as per the regulation of the UK Government but will be permitted to train and practice in a biosecure facility.
“As regards the players, who have tested positive, we will continue to monitor and support them, including conducting antibody tests,” Khan further added. “As soon as they test negative, they will be flown to join the squad in England.”
“In the meantime, (head coach) Misbah Ul Haq is reviewing the training schedule in England and is firming up plans for reserve players to be tested as a backup.”
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