IPL 2020: No relaxation likely in quarantine rules for English and Australian players

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Key players from England and Australia including Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Steven Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins could be in danger of missing their teams' respective first matches in the IPL, with the BCCI unlikely to relax the mandatory seven-day quarantine period, which involves team members clearing three tests before they can start training.

England are scheduled to host a limited-overs series against Australia comprising three T20Is and three ODIs. The series will end by September 16, which is four days before the IPL takes off in the UAE.

A total of 29 players from England and Australia are part of the eight IPL squads, some of whom, like the Australian pair of Cummins and Glenn Maxwell, were signed at the 2020 IPL auction for record sums of money.

Other players who are likely to be part of the series, and could be among the first picks in the IPL, will be Australia white-ball captain Aaron Finch, his England counterpart Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Marcus Stoinis.

Keeping in mind the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IPL has laid down strict guidelines in its draft standard operating procedures (SOPs), which were shared with the teams recently. The SOPs include a rigorous testing process that mandates multiple tests within the first week upon landing in the UAE.

Once the squads land in the UAE, all members will undergo a test at the airport before heading to the team hotel. From this point, the IPL testing protocol will kick in.

As per the protocol, every squad will undergo a mandatory seven-day quarantine in the team hotel. During this week every squad member will be tested three times - on days 1, 3 and 6. Once all three results come back negative, the squad can start training. After that, all squad members will be tested on the fifth day of every week throughout the tournament.

Although franchises have agreed with the SOPs, it is understood that several asked the IPL if the week-long quarantine could be relaxed for the group of players that will feature in the England-Australia series. In a call with the IPL, franchises reasoned that, considering the players would be exiting one bubble to enter another in IPL while likely traveling on a charter flight, the testing and quarantine process for this group should be different in order for them to be ready to play matches quickly.

The franchises have said that as long as this group fulfills the rules laid out by the UAE government, they should be allowed to play in the tournament straightway. Currently, anyone travelling into the UAE needs to carry a negative result from a test carried out in the previous 96 hours. They would then need to undergo another test at the airport.

However, ESPNcricinfo understands the IPL has remained stoic in its stance as it prepares a final set of SOPs which also need to be approved by the UAE government.

Strict quarantine protocols also in place for CPL 2020

Similar questions have been raised by franchises in the 2020 Caribbean Premier League, which will be played in Trinidad & Tobago from August 18.

Some of the West Indies players who had participated in a Test series in England, where they had been in a biosecure bubble, questioned why it was necessary for them to undergo the 14-day CPL-mandated quarantine in their hotel room.

In a letter to franchises last week, Dr Akshay Mansingh, the CPL's chief medical officer, explained why moving between bubbles was not enough and how any person coming into the country was a "potential threat".

"For those of you coming from the English tour, I just want to point out the difference between the two bubbles," Mansingh said in an e-mail sent on August 8. "When we went to England, we were coming from countries with few cases of Covid-19 into a country where it was rampant. As a result, all that was done was to keep us safe from what was happening outside, and hence people were allowed to move in clusters and meet in rooms etc.

"In Trinidad there remain relatively low number of cases and they see anyone coming in from outside as a potential threat. Hence the bubble here is to keep their citizens safe from people coming from outside; even if you are corning from a country with low numbers of Covid-19 cases. Irrespective of where you are coming from (including Trinidadian citizens coming from overseas) the law of the land is that all have to quarantine for two weeks, either in a Government facility or in designated hotels. They have not restricted movements of their citizens as they have not had large community spread."

The IPL testing process and quarantine protocol would also apply to the players and coaching staff travelling to the UAE from the CPL, which is scheduled to end on November 10. Prominent West Indian players in the CPL who are first picks for IPL teams include Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo. There is also a healthy set of coaching and support staff including Brendon McCullum, who will make his debut as an IPL head coach at Kolkata Knight Riders, and Andy Flower, who is the assistant coach with Kings XI Punjab.