Lahore: A 20-member Pakistan squad, along with 11 support staff members, reached Manchester on Sunday night. The players arrived on a chartered flight from Lahore and were seen coming out of the airport wearing masks.
Meanwhile, the 10 Pakistan cricketers, who had tested COVID-19 positive in the initial tests conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), were not included in the first set of the contingent sent for the 3-match Test series and will join the players later if they return negative in next Covid-19 test.
The squad will be transported to Worcestershire where they will undergo the England and Wales Cricket Board testing before completing their 14-day isolation period, during which they will be allowed to train and practice. The side will move to Derbyshire on 13 July.
Earlier the PCB had said that all 18 players and 11 player support personnel, who had tested negative for Covid-19 in the first round of tests on Monday, have again returned negative in Thursday’s retests.
Besides the 29 members, tests of fast bowler Musa Khan and Pakistan U19 captain and wicketkeeper Rohail Nazir, along with three other reserve players, were also conducted on Thursday and they have also returned negative.
As such, Musa and Rohail have been included in the first group of travellers, including Azhar Ali (captain), Babar Azam (vice-captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Ahmad, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Rohail Nazir, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, and Yasir Shah. Zafar Gohar, the left-arm spinner who played an ODI in 2015, will join the side from England and will only be involved in pre-match preparations.
Player support personnel – Mansoor Rana (manager), Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Younis Khan (batting coach), Mushtaq Ahmed (spin bowling coach), Shahid Aslam (assistant coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Talha Butt (team analyst), Yasir Malik (strength and conditioning coach), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor), Lt Col (retd) Usman Riffat (security manager) and Raza Kitchlew (media and digital content manager).
Cliffe Deacon and Waqar Younis will join the side directly from South Africa and Australia, respectively, while Shoaib Malik is expected to travel around 24 July.
Following advice from leading sports science experts and as per the UK government regulations, players who have tested positive during the PCB testing process were unable to travel on Sunday.
However, they will be sent to England as soon as their two tests return negative.
Amongst the four reserves players, who were tested on Wednesday, only Imran Butt has tested positive, while the tests of Bilal Asif, Mohammad Nawaz and Musa Khan were negative.
Out of the 10 players and one official, who had earlier tested positive during the PCB testing programme, six players have tested negative in the retests. They are: Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz.
Players who have again tested positive are: Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Kashif Bhatti and Imran Khan, along with Malang Ali (masseur).
The six players who have now tested negative will undergo third round of testing at some stage next week and if their tests remain negative, then the PCB will make arrangements to send them to England.
The five players and the masseur, who have are positive, have been advised by the PCB medical panel to observe strict quarantine to protect their families and friends from the contagion. As in the past, the PCB medical panel will provide them complete support and continue to monitor their progress. These players will undergo tests following the completion of the quarantine period and will be sent to England following two negative tests.
PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan: “This was a challenging and unprecedented process that we have conducted and I am pleased that following a second round of testing, we are able to confirm 20 players and 11 player support personnel will travel to Manchester on Sunday.
“Due to the increasing number of national cases and availability of testing labs in some players’ hometowns, I think the PCB medical panel have done a good job to get us through this process. Based on the national spread of players, there were always going to be some logistical challenges; we have taken a number of learnings from the process that we will take forward with us.
“With the Test series being played first in August, Misbah is satisfied with the group of players that are traveling on Sunday as the focus will be on red-ball preparation. Misbah understands that flexibility and adaptability will be needed with his training and practice schedule while operating under various guidelines.’
“I want to reassure the players and the official left behind that the PCB will provide them best support and look after them during the quarantine period. It needs to be remembered that these players were asymptomatic, which means their chances of regaining complete fitness are higher and brighter than most. As soon as these players test negative twice through the PCB testing process they will be flown to England to join the squad.
“I am aware Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz took personal tests outside of our process prior to the second PCB testing. While their results came up negative, as per the PCB testing programme, they are deemed to have one negative test following a positive test. Therefore, once they are retested and receive a second negative result under the PCB testing programme, they will be available to join the squad in England.
“Lastly, on behalf of the PCB, I want to once again urge the Pakistan cricket fans and followers to support the government in their fight against coronavirus by strictly following its instructions. Only through taking personal responsibility can we begin to eradicate this virus.”