The selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency
The Indian squads for both the World Test Championship final and the five-Test England series are set to be picked over the weekend. It is understood that the Virat Kohli-lead Indian squad is likely to depart for England on June 2.
Keeping in mind the extensive length of the tour, spanning between June and mid-September, the selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency. Even the ICC recently approved increasing the squad strength from 23 to 30 (including support staff) for global events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WTC final between India and New Zealand is scheduled to be held in Southampton between June 18 and 22. As per the existing schedule, the Test series is meant to begin only on August 4, with the first match at Trent Bridge followed by Lord’s (August 12-16), Leeds (August 25-29), The Oval (September 2-6) and Old Trafford (September 10-14).
As per the previous plan, before the UK government in April put India on the red list of countries from where travellers are barred during the pandemic, the BCCI was looking at picking two separate squads with the first batch meant for the WTC final and the second batch leaving closer to the England tour.
That is one of the key questions that the BCCI needs to resolve: what the players would do in the nearly four-week gap before the squad reassembles for the England Test series. In April, the ECB announced that the Indians would be arriving with an inflated squad and would play two intra-squad practice matches in July. Those two matches replaced the original warm-up schedule comprising two previously planned four-day fixtures between Indians and India A in July. The ECB, in agreement with BCCI, had postponed the India A tour due to the pandemic.
The other question for the BCCI deals with players wanting to travel with their families keeping in mind the long tour. With the UK imposing a hard quarantine for all in-bound travellers from India (this applied even to the England players and support staff that returned from the IPL this week), the BCCI needs to figure whether it can get exemptions for the families. Currently, the ICC along with the ECB are speaking to the UK government to get exemptions for the players for the WTC final.
Both those points are likely to feature when the BCCI’s top brass meets soon, which is even likely over the weekend once the selectors submit the final list of names for the enlarged squad. It is also likely that the BCCI might hold back announcing the squad until it has the nod from the Indian government authorities as well as the ICC and ECB on the travel exemptions and the quarantine rules.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo