ISLAMABAD (AP) — Three Pakistan cricketers selected for the tour of England have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Uncapped middle-order batsman Haider Ali, fast bowler Haris Rauf, and legspinner Shadab Khan will go into self-isolation, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Monday.
The players showed no symptoms until they were tested on Sunday at Rawalpindi. Allrounder Imad Wasim and fast bowler Usman Shinwari tested negative and will travel on Wednesday to Lahore, where Pakistan will assemble before travelling to the Britain on Sunday.
More COVID-19 tests were conducted at Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar on Monday, and the PCB said those results will come on Tuesday.
Pakistan named an extended squad of 29 players for three test matches and three Twenty20s in England from August.
A PCB medical official said the tour was a “big risk” but necessary to help the country get through the crisis.
“During the pandemic it’s (the tour) a big risk,” said PCB director of medical and sports sciences Dr. Sohail Saleem on Monday.
“We haven’t experienced (playing during a pandemic), but for both teams it will be a first. The pandemic means risk, but consider them (players) as ... providing people entertainment.”
Saleem said he was encouraged by soccer resuming in Europe, where the Bundesliga in Germany and the Premier League in England have restarted in empty stadiums.
“There’s no crowd in football and there will be no spectators at cricket stadiums, too,” he said.
“The anxiety level of people sitting at home is rising, but cricket can be seen as lowering these.”
All 29 players will be tested twice for COVID-19 before they board the flight to London. Once the team lands in the UK, Saleem said the players will go through another testing session before they start training in quarantine.
“After every 5-7 days we will be carrying out testing of the players in the UK,” Saleem said.
“Three days before the start of the first test another round of testing of all the players will be done and if a player tests positive, he will be quarantined. We have set the protocol with the England and Wales Cricket Board.”
Pakistan cricketers haven’t played any competitive games since March 17 when the Pakistan Super League was suspended due to the pandemic. According to Saleem, the players have been mostly confined to their homes.
“Players could have been mentally affected, but it’s affecting even the common man,” Saleem said.
He said he spoke to coach Misbah-ul-Haq when the PCB had to postpone the training camp in Lahore due to a rise of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan and the team will depart earlier than initially planned.
“We had a meeting with the head coach about how much time he needed (to get the players ready) and he said at least five-six weeks were required. It was not possible in Pakistan, but the ECB provided us the maximum time to train in a bio-secured environment.”
Saleem also said Pakistan players have to follow the UK government’s protocols in England and will not be allowed to meet their relatives and friends in the UK.
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