Bangladesh unhappy as Australia’s Covid-19 demands force Mushfiqur Rahim to miss home T20Is

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According to the terms agreed to between the two boards, the senior batter can’t enter the Dhaka bio-bubble now

Bangladesh are unhappy with Mushfiqur Rahim‘s enforced absence from the Bangladesh squad for the upcoming T20Is at home against Australia, a direct result of the Covid-19 protocols demanded by Cricket Australia. The word “unfair” is floating around in some private conversations among players and BCB officials, and the general feeling is that CA has asked for too much, and the BCB has gone a bit too far in accepting the demands.
The two boards had agreed to include their respective bio-bubbles in Zimbabwe and the West Indies as part of the mandatory pre-series ten-day quarantine in Dhaka. But Rahim had to leave Harare for home after both his parents contracted Covid-19. As a result, he can’t be in the Dhaka bio-bubble now. What has upset the Bangladesh team even more is that while Rahim has not been allowed to re-enter the bubble, the players who have returned from Zimbabwe have had to do so after going through four airports – Harare, Johannesburg, Doha and Dhaka – with potentially greater exposure to the virus, but there have been no objections there.

“It is unfair what happened with Mushfiq,” a member of Bangladesh’s tour party to Zimbabwe, told ESPNcricinfo. “We came in a commercial flight passing through three airports so I don’t know if it makes much sense to keep Mushfiq out of the series. He went back home from the middle of a tour for a family problem. So to not allow him to enter the quarantine after just two or three days, is not right.”

Rahim had himself planned to be available for the Australia T20Is. He had initially taken leave from the Zimbabwe T20Is with an eye on being available for the Australia series. The leave was granted, but once the BCB-CA agreement on the bio-secure bubbles came in, he was asked to stay with the squad in Zimbabwe, even for the T20Is. His parents’ ill-health forced a change in plans. And when the home series quarantine was brought forward from July 22 to July 20, Rahim had to miss out.

The BCB says it did ask CA to reconsider the stance on Rahim, but to no avail.

“The agreement between CA and BCB says that there is no chance for allowing anyone from outside into the bio-bubble,” a BCB official said. “We have to hold the series with only those inside the bio-bubble. There will be challenges but this is the new normal. I think the selectors have picked the players who are best available during this scenario. There are no alternatives but to take our best available options.”

To add to Bangladesh’s troubles, Tamim Iqbal is out because of a knee injury, and earlier this week, Liton Das, too, was ruled out following a family emergency. Currently, Bangladesh’s first-choice 20-member squad has been reduced to 17 players, and there are injury worries there too, including with Shakib Al Hasan.

The quarantine rules could also have an impact on the use of DRS during the series. DRS technicians sit in the same room generally with match officials but the latter have been in a ten-day quarantine period and anyone coming in from the outside – such as a DRS technician – will not be able to sit in the same room according to protocols.

“We have fulfilled the requirements for the production team. We are ready,” a BCB official said. “If the technician can work from a remote location, we will have DRS. There still remain some challenges but the technical person still has time (to be involved in the series).

“He has to comply with a three-day quarantine (according to local health directorate), but CA has a condition that whoever isn’t part of the ten-day quarantine, they can’t get into close contact with anyone who was in the quarantine. If this person can manage to do the work remotely, then we can have DRS in the playing conditions.”

The issues highlight the challenges the BCB faced for this series, in setting up two separate quarantines for match officials, hotel staff, and logistics, liaison and ground staff; the BCB has also made sure that the Australians can go to the team hotel from the airport tarmac directly. Their immigration will be processed separately, and their passports returned only after being sanitised for three days. The hotel will also be off-limits to anyone but the touring party till August 10.

The BCB had earlier agreed to hold all the five matches at the Shere Bangla National Stadium instead of at two venues.

“It is not just about CA giving us conditions and us accepting those conditions,” a board official said. “The Australia team is traveling here on a chartered flight from West Indies. It shows how serious they are about the health and welfare of players. We are only fulfilling some of their additional requirements.”

Despite all that, concern will remain. Bangladesh is currently experiencing a fresh Covid-19 wave, and the country has been in a strict lockdown. There were 258 deaths and 14,925 new cases the day before Australia’s arrival in Dhaka on Thursday. Pulling off the series without incident will be important for the BCB’s home season ahead, given New Zealand are expected to arrive in early September to play five T20Is before England travel for three T20Is and the same number of ODIs.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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