Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Yuzvendra Chahal, K Gowtham, and Deepak Chahar are the eight players identified as close contacts of Krunal Pandya, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday. Although all eight have tested negative for the virus, they have still been ruled out of the ongoing T20I series against Sri Lanka.
The BCCI didn't announce the names of the eight players in a media release sent out on Wednesday, but their identities became obvious once head coach Rahul Dravid told the host broadcasters that the Indians had been left with only 11 players to pick from in the main squad, and all 11 would be playing the second T20I, which had originally been scheduled to take place on Tuesday but had to be pushed back on account of the disruption caused by the pandemic.
"It was felt medically that some of the guys who were his (Krunal's) close contacts shouldn't be participating in the series," Dravid said. "We've got 11 to choose from, and all 11 are playing! Brilliant. (laughs)"
Dravid, however, emphasised that he didn't buy the arguments that India caps were being handed out easily, contending that anyone who came on tour with the team was there as potentially a part of the playing XI.
"Truly I think when I look at the squad, and look at the 20 guys that have been selected here, each one of them has got here through sheer weight of performances," he said. "It's not easy in India, there are a lot of people playing cricket, there are lot of very good performances. People earn the right to come here. It's not every time you're going to be able to give every one of them a chance, but it's really nice to be able to give as many as you can a chance if possible. Due to various reasons we're probably able to do that this time.
"They are earning their India caps. I don't get that argument… what do you mean by 'earning' your India cap? Like I said, if you are selected in a team of 15, obviously with Covid now it's become 20, you are selected keeping in mind that you may need to play in the XI at any given point of time. Could be because of injury or lack of form to any other player. So you've certainly earned the right to get that cap. It's up to you to take the opportunity and you know, perform. I truly believe everyone who is here has earned it."
The Indian selectors also added the five reserve bowlers who had been taken to Sri Lanka into the main squad, upon request from the team management. The five reserve bowlers are Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, R Sai Kishore and Simarjeet Singh.
The XI that took the field for India in the second T20I had six bowlers. Only five batters were available for selection with Bhuvneshwar Kumar slated at No.6. Dravid acknowledged that the balance of the team was compromised, but reiterated his faith in his men.
"To be very honest, I don't think there's any need to be sorry for us," Dravid said. "The squad's great, like I said everyone deserves to be in the XI. Our balance might be a bit compromised this game, but it's a Twenty20 game and I truly believe we have the quality to really put up a good show."
Question marks over Shaw and Suryakumar's England trip
The development puts a question mark over whether the pair of Shaw and Suryakumar will be eligible to travel to England to join India's Test squad. Both batters, who were added to the Test squad as replacements, were scheduled to fly out to the UK after the Sri Lanka series, which ends on Thursday with the third and final T20I. The BCCI stated that the entire Indian squad, out of of Krunal, had returned negative tests on Tuesday, but the eight close contacts of Krunal would "continue to remain in isolation" at the team hotel. How long the isolation period will be remains unclear.
Recently Sri Lanka assistant coach Grant Flower and the team analyst who had both tested positive for Covid-19 upon returning from England tour had to isolate for 10 days. Those that had been identified as the pair's close contacts had to isolate for a week.