ENGLAND players are shocked to discover Indian cricket chiefs are considering letting in crowds during the Test series.
Joe Root’s team are worried about the potential safety implications if tens of thousands of spectators are allowed inside grounds.
England may be forced to play India in front of tens of thousands of fans despite the coronavirus pandemicCredit: Sri Lanka Cricket
Reports in India suggested the BCCI will permit 50 per cent crowd capacity – around 25,000 people – for the Second Test in Chennai and that tickets will go on sale shortly.
But neither the England team in India nor the ECB back in London have been consulted.
Spin bowler Jack Leach, whose health concerns are increased because he has the immune-reducing Crohn’s Disease, said: “We’d love to play in front of crowds as soon as possible but it needs to be safe.
“We don’t want to be adding to a problem which is affecting the whole world.”
Cricket fans in India are famously excitable and passionate and like to get as close as possible to players or crowd around the team bus.
Even when England landed at Chennai last week, some airport staff asked players for selfies.
While police could keep spectators at a distance, having thousands of fans present is a stark contrast to the weeks of meticulous Covid-19 protocols and bubble life to which players have been subjected.
They have just completed six days’ quarantine and will begin training as a full squad on Tuesday.
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England head to India on the back of a 2-0 series win over Sri LankaCredit: Sri Lanka Cricket
If crowds are permitted, it is more likely to be for the day/night Third Test at the rebuilt 110,000-capacity Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad on February 24.
England have a dilemma, though, because they want to admit spectators this summer for the five-Test series at home to India.
If they object to crowds now, they worry India might refuse to play in front of summer or, worse still, not come at all.
Leach, meanwhile, is relishing the chance to bowl to India’s star-studded batting line-up in the First Test on Friday – a game that will definitely be behind closed doors.
He explained: “They’re a quality side coming off a great win in Australia but it’s a great chance to test ourselves against probably the best side in the world.
“It’s my first time in India so to come here and bowl spin is a dream.
“Having missed so much cricket you have to remember to cherish and enjoy these moments.”
Jack Leach is relishing the prospect of taking on IndiaCredit: Sri Lanka Cricket
Leach took ten wickets in the 2-0 win over Sri Lanka but admits he did not bowl at his best.
He added: “I’m probably someone who is never happy and there’s more improvement from me.
“The ball didn’t come out exactly as I’d have liked in Sri Lanka but it’s good to be playing cricket again.
“It was good to contribute to our win and I feel I have more to offer.
“It’s not ideal having another break before bowling again but it’s the same for the Indian players.
“I’ve done some reflecting and bowled a few in the mirror.
“Now I’m eager to get some base training in before the Test.”