The fate of the rescheduled fifth Test between India and England in Birmingham is hanging by a thread after Team India skipper Rohit Sharma tested positive for COVID-19. The captain is currently recuperating from the virus in the team hotel where he has been placed under isolation. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed the news after the close of play on Day 3 of the four-day warm-up fixture between India and Leicestershire. “Team India Captain Mr. Rohit Sharma has tested positive for COVID-19 following a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) conducted on Saturday. He is currently in isolation at the team hotel and is under the care of the BCCI Medical Team,” the Indian board said on Twitter.
Rohit Sharma’s positive test isn’t good news for the Indian team, especially at a time when they are preparing for the decisive fifth Test against England. The match is scheduled to start at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham next week.
The veteran batter took the field in India’s opening innings on Thursday, scoring 25 runs before being sent back to the pavilion by Roman Walker. Rohit Sharma was also seen marshaling his troops the next day but didn’t come out to bat on Saturday.
Having made 368 runs in four previous Test matches, Rohit Sharma is currently the leading scorer in the series and now faces an uphill battle to be fit for the final match.
In case Rohit Sharma doesn’t make a full recovery for the Test in Birmingham, it would be a double blow for India, considering his opening partner KL Rahul will miss the match due to a groin injury.
However, more than Rohit Sharma’s recovery, the Indian team would be worried about a breakout of the deadly virus in their camp.
Last year, the fears of a breakout of coronavirus in the Indian contingent led to its postponement. Then head coach Ravi Shastri and a support staff member in the Indian team had tested positive for the virus and the players were wary of taking to the field under such circumstances. Eventually, the BCCI and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) decided to postpone the game.
Coming back to the warm-up game, India ended Day 3 at 364/9 with Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja hitting fine half-centuries. India now lead by 366 runs, courtesy of their 2-run lead in the first innings.
Meanwhile, before he arrived in England, Rohit Sharma had to cope with severe criticism from legendary India captain Kapil Dev.
“It’s hard to know today who has been rested or asked to be rested. Only selectors will know about this,” Kapil said on the YouTube channel UnCut.
“The player (Rohit) is brilliant, no question about that. But if you don’t score a fifty in 14 matches, questions will be raised, be it Gary Sobers, Don Bradman, Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar or Viv Richards. Only Rohit can answer that what’s happening. Is it too much (cricket) or has he stopped enjoying it?”
“Players like Rohit and Virat (Kohli) should enjoy the game. How they feel is very important (for their performances),” Kapil Dev added.
“You have to score runs (to get back in form). You cannot go too far based on reputation alone. Eventually, the opportunities will get dried up. How many chances would you need after 14 games? Can’t understand why they’re rested. If dropped, where they will get a chance to play then? It’s quite difficult to see how they play now,” Kapil Dev further said.
“What I feel is that these players need to correct their thinking. I would be happy if they prove me wrong. If you aren’t scoring runs, then there’s a problem somewhere. Either there’s too much cricket or too less. We only see one thing – how you perform. If performance has dropped, then hard to stop people from talking. It’s not possible. Your performance and bat should speak. Rest doesn’t matter,” the 1983 World Cup-winning India captain pointed out.
On the other hand, former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim called on the Indian selectors to have a candid discussion with Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma over their place in India’s T20 line-up.
“A tough call for the selectors. At this stage, I’m sure all three of them (Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and KL Rahul) will walk into the XI,” Saba Karim said in a media interaction organized by Sony Sports.
“If such criticism is being leveled at them, it is up to them to find a solution so that they emerge in a much better manner. And if it’s not happening then the team management or selectors need to have hard conversations with the individuals involved because there is stiff competition coming through. The players whom you have named enough experience to make the required changes in their batting so that it is beneficial for the national side. I’m sure they understand the needs of modern T20 batting,” he added.