ECB confident that summer schedule will survive despite India joining Covid-19 'red list'

A sign encouraging social distancing at the Ageas Bowl Pool/Getty Images for ECB

The ECB are confident they will be able to fulfil their home international fixture programme despite India being added to the 'red list' of countries from which most travel to the UK has been banned due to fears of a new Covid variant.

Under new regulations, most people who have been in India in the last 10 days will be banned from entering the UK from 4am on Friday. British or Irish residents, or those with residence rights within the UK, will be obliged to serve a 10-day quarantine period. There is, at present, no dispensation available to allow sportspeople to train out of their rooms while they serve that quarantine period.

There is a concern that a new variant of the virus, which appears to be relatively prevalent in India, could spread more easily and prove more resistant to vaccinations. The UK's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has cancelled a visit to India which was scheduled to take place next week.

India are scheduled to play in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand in June and a five-Test series against England starting in August. Pakistan, which is also on the red list, are also scheduled to play ODI and T20I series in England in the coming months, while India's women's team is also scheduled to play a series in June.

But although the ECB are likely to require dispensation from the UK government to stage such tours, they are optimistic that all games will be given the go-ahead.

Having fulfilled their full home schedule in 2020, the ECB feel they have the experience and capability to combat the demands of the situation. Crucially, they also believe they gained the confidence of the UK government by demonstrating their ability to build an effective bio-bubble and stage matches without compromising safety. England were able to host series against West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia in 2020 with players of all sides obliged to abide by strict protocols, including serving quarantine periods.

"We are currently discussing with Government the impact of countries being on the 'red list'," an ECB spokesperson said. "By working collaboratively we demonstrated how we can stage international cricket safely in the middle of a pandemic and hope to be able to do so again this year."

It is unlikely the news will have much of an impact on England's players involved in the IPL. While some may be alarmed at infection rates in India - new cases have risen to over 200,000 a day and only the USA has reported more deaths from the virus - the players are already living in bio-bubbles and playing in empty stadiums.

It could, however, lengthen the process by which players can appear elsewhere, having been involved in the IPL. That could make it difficult for players at the IPL to be available for the Test series between New Zealand and England which starts on June 2. New Zealand players involved in the tournament include their captain, Kane Williamson, while England players involved include Jos Buttler. The IPL final takes place on May 30.

The ICC are also confident that the World Test Championship final, due to be played at the Ageas Bowl near Southampton in June, will go ahead as planned, although they may need the UK government to grant dispensation for the event, and for the hotel at the ground to be considered an approved quarantine centre.

"We are currently discussing with the UK Government the impact of countries being on the 'red list'," an ICC spokesman told ESPNcricinfo. "The ECB and other Members have demonstrated how we can stage international cricket safely in the middle of a pandemic and we are confident that we can continue to do that and that the World Test Championship Final will go ahead as planned in June in the UK."