India have expressed their reluctance to travel to Brisbane for the fourth Test in case they have further restrictions imposed on them. Their scepticism over traveling to Queensland stems from reports that they might be pushed back into hard lockdown, with their movement severely curtailed.
The visitors have been very clear since arriving in Australia that once they were done with their initial 14-day quarantine at the start of the tour, they be treated as anyone else around Australia in terms of freedom of movement. And with fears now that they would be back in a less porous bubble which is likely to see their travel being limited from hotel to stadium to back upon reaching Brisbane, via Sydney, the Indians are keener to stay away.
“If you look at it, we were quarantining for 14 days in Dubai before landing in Sydney and doing so for another 14 days. That means we were in a hard bubble for nearly a month before coming out. What we don’t want now is to quarantine again at the end of the tour,” a source in the Indian team told Cricbuzz.
The official added that while they have been cooperative with the protocols that Cricket Australia (CA) and the different state governments have laid out for them, they don’t want to be “shunted around” now and would prefer playing the last two Test matches at the same venue.
“We aren’t keen on going to Brisbane if it means being stuck in the hotel again, except for going to the ground. Instead we don’t mind being in some other city, playing both Test matches there to complete the series and returning home,” he added.
As it stands, the Indian team is scheduled to travel to Sydney on Monday (January 4), train for two days and then start the third Test at the SCG on Thursday (January 7). They are then set to receive exemptions along with some of the broadcast staff to travel into Queensland on a chartered flight, despite the state having shut its borders to New South Wales, which still hasn’t recovered from the northern beaches Covid-19 outbreak from four weeks back.
Seven new community transmission cases were reported in NSW on Saturday (January 2), which led to the announcement of masks being made mandatory again in most public places. The last couple of days have witnessed both South Australia and Victoria announcing hard border shutdowns with NSW.
It’s unlikely then that Queensland will reconsider their own border closure with NSW in time for the two teams’ scheduled departure for Brisbane, who will then travel with the special exemptions that CA had spoken about last week. And that would mean exactly the kind of hotel quarantine that the Indian team is keen on avoiding.
“We understand the complexity of what’s happening currently. Cricket Australia and we have cooperated at every step with regards to following the protocols within the bubble. But we were expecting to be treated in the same vein as ‘normal Australians’ in terms of restrictions once we completed that initial quarantine in Sydney,” the source said.
This comes in the wake of reports about five Indian players having allegedly breached the bubble by dining in an indoor restaurant with one of them hugging a member of the public. A press release from CA has indicated that the incident will be investigated further to see if there was a breach.
The Indians were given a freer lease of life when they came out of their hotel quarantine on November 26. And before Saturday, there hadn’t been any reports of them not following the protocols. There are also anxieties about Sydney within the Indian camp in terms of whether they’ll even have the same level of freedom as they did during the first leg of this tour.
“All we’re saying is the boys have been in various states of lockdowns and bubbles for nearly six months now. And it’s not been easy for anyone. If you look at it, we are one of only two teams who have had zero issues while being on a tour during this pandemic. After all this time, what we don’t want is to be sent into another hard bubble, which seems will be the case in Brisbane,” the source said.