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England v India

What we know about the book launch at the centre of India’s COVID catastrophe

shastri book launch
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

The controversial cancellation of the Old Trafford Test prompted much debate over the possible reasons behind why the Test was called off at such late notice.

There have been plenty looking to assign blame. Some quarters of the English media have argued that the looming IPL influenced the India players’ desire for the game not to go ahead, while others have defended their trepidation to take the field following the positive COVID-19 tests of a number of support staff.

Coverage has also focused on how India coach Ravi Shastri, the first person in the India camp to test positive, is likely to have caught the virus, especially in relation to his attendance at a public book launch for his new title, Stargazing: The Players In My Life. Shastri tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after the event.

It is worth noting that unlike the 2020 English summer, neither England or India have been living in bio-secure bubbles. While both sides have exercised caution, they have had more freedom than was available to the sides that contested last summer’s series.

The book launch was held at a hotel in Victoria and it is understood that there were around 150 at the event where, reportedly, there were limited COVID regulations. An attendee told the Daily Mail: “It was horrid. No one wore masks, apart from waiting staff. It left me feeling very uncomfortable. Everyone there went over to Shastri to meet him.”

The Evening Standard reported that ECB CEO Tom Harrison was also in attendance, but also that the ECB were not impressed with how lax the COVID protocols were at the event. The Evening Standard report stated: “It is understood that he [Harrison] received an invitation from Shastri and the BCCI and wore a mask throughout, except when consuming food and drink. He had not seen the guest list and expected a COVID-safe event, in line with the safer living guidelines that were laid out for both teams by the ECB this summer.

“News of the event has angered many staff at the ECB, who believe that it was not sanctioned by those on the ground organising the tour’s logistics, including Covid-19 guidelines. England’s players feel that they have observed the rules more closely than India this summer.”

Shastri has also been the subject of criticism in the Australian press, with news.com.au reporting that Shastri had a relaxed approach to the COVID protocols during India’s tour of Australia last winter. The report claimed that Shastri “thought he was exempt” from restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing.

The report also included a tweet from Malcolm Conn, who worked for Cricket NSW during the series, that claimed that Shastri railed against the health protocols “every day” while in Sydney.

India-based outlet Times of India reported that the BCCI were less than impressed by the book launch. A BCCI official was quoted by Times of India as saying: “This wasn‘t an official event that either of the boards had organised. The action of the team hasn’t gone down well with the (BCCI) Board. This incident has left the Board embarrassed.”

However, Shastri himself has defended the launch. “The whole country [United Kingdom] is open. Anything could have happened from Test one,” he told Indian outlet mid-day.

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