WTC final venue shifted to Southampton due to UK government’s “hard” quarantine rules

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Thursday defended its decision to shift the final of the World Test Championship from Lord’s in London to Ageas Bowl in Southampton citing “hard” quarantine rules enforced by the British Government.

According to information, ICC’s priority, when deciding in January, was to guarantee it could stage the Test match in safe environs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ICC had few options since the United Kingdom was on complete lockdown.

As the apex body got down to picking an alternate venue, Southampton provided the best bio-secure environment that allowed both teams to train at the nursery ground and for India’s intra-team matches as well.

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The plans were hit by the deteriorating situation in India, which was placed on a red list. It made it mandatory for anyone who came from India to undergo 10 days of hard quarantine with only 20 minutes of exercise per day.

The biosecure environment in Southampton allowed ICC to negotiate with the UK government to give the hotel at the Ageas Bowl “Managed Quarantine Status”.

It allowed the Indian team to do its quarantine at the Ageas Bowl hotel and train because they weren’t leaving the footprint of the premises. It was considered completely secure. Lord’s would not have been feasible, and the team would have been subjected to 10 hard days of quarantine in a hotel.

Reflecting on the weather, it is worth noting that the UK summer is two months into its cricket season. Four years ago, the Champions Trophy final was played in glorious weather. Had the match not been shifted to Southampton, the WTC final would have witnessed glorious sunshine in London. It is only the first time in 10 years that two days of a Test have been lost due to rain.

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Had the ICC not chosen Southampton (the south coast is the driest place in the country), it’s quite likely it wouldn’t have been able to go ahead with the game.

What helped the ICC most was slotting a reserve day. In the end, the WTC final went through some anxious phases, but the concluding season was a tribute to the players and the organisers. Test cricket ruled supreme as far as fans of the game were concerned.

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