Our Web Desk
KARACHI: England’s complete squad has been forced to isolate after its seven members, three players and four officials, were tested positive for Covid-19 just two days ahead of the start of their three-match one-day series against Pakistan.
Ben Stokes will now captain the replacement line-up, featuring nine uncapped players. “In collaboration with Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Bristol Local Health Authority, those impacted will now observe a period of self-isolation from July 4 following the UK Government’s protocol on quarantine,” a statement of the England Cricket Board (ECB) said.
“The remaining members of the party have been deemed close contacts and will also isolate,” it said.
The ECB also made it clear that the white ball series against Pakistan will proceed as per schedule with Ben Stokes to lead the replacement side which feature nine uncapped players.
Several players have been pulled out of the ongoing round of the County Championship to join the new squad and will undertake PCR tests in order to ensure the safety of the new squad.England’s head coach Chris Silverwood will return to oversee the team. Both of Silverwood’s assistants, Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood, were part of the group now having to self-isolate.
According to the ECB spokesperson majority of those who tested positive are asymptomatic with those unwell not currently experiencing “significant” issues. The ten-day isolation period, backdated to July 4, means all involved are ruled out of the three Pakistan ODIs, to be held at Cardiff, Lord’s and Edgbaston.
“We have been mindful that the emergence of the Delta variant, along with our move away from the stringent enforcement of biosecure environments, could increase the chances of an outbreak. We made a strategic choice to try to adapt protocols, in order to support the overall well-being of our players and management staff who have spent much of the last 14 months living in very restricted conditions,” Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, said.
“Overnight we have worked swiftly to identify a new squad, and we are grateful to Ben Stokes who will return to England duties to captain. We also recognise the impact this news will have on our first-class counties and their men’s playing squads and thank them, along with our partners Sky and Royal London, for their ongoing support in dealing with this pandemic.”
The ECB had been keen to move away from the idea of biosecure “bubbles” this summer, amid a recognition of the toll such restrictions take on players and staff. England have a Covid compliance officer, Phil Davies, who has been advising the squad on what they are able to do in and around different venues, depending on local data.
England players are also part of the nationwide vaccination programme – Jason Roy posted on Instagram about receiving his first jab on Monday. Everyone in the group had received at least one shot of the vaccine.
There has still been a regular testing regime, which led to a number of match officials going into isolation after the T20I series against Sri Lanka as a result of positive test for Phil Whiticase, the match referee. Concerns around biosecurity also saw Sri Lanka send home three players – Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka – after an unsanctioned trip into Durham city centre.
Meanwhile the PCB said that it had been in close contacts with the ECB regarding concerns about the players’ safety.
“The PCB has been in close contact with the England and Wales Cricket Board regarding concerns about the health and safety of its players since the news of Covid-19 outbreak in the England camp was shared with it on late Monday evening,” the PCB said in a statement.
“The PCB is satisfied by the assurances and guarantees provided by the ECB on behalf of its medical panel, and feels comfortable with the existing protocols that have been put in place to ensure all the Pakistan players and player support staff remain safe and secure throughout the duration of the series, which commences on Thursday, 8 July, in Cardiff,” the Board said.
“The PCB has also been in touch with its team management and has advised them to exercise extra caution while in the hotel or at the match venue,” the Board informed.
England replacement ODI squad:
Ben Stokes (Durham, captain)
Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire)
Danny Briggs (Warwickshire)
Brydon Carse (Durham)
Zak Crawley (Kent)
Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire)
Lewis Gregory (Somerset)
Tom Helm (Middlesex)
Will Jacks (Surrey)
Dan Lawrence (Essex)
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire)
Dawid Malan (Yorkshire)
Craig Overton (Somerset)
Matt Parkinson (Lancashire)
David Payne (Gloucestershire)
Phil Salt (Sussex)
John Simpson (Middlesex)
James Vince (Hampshire)