New Delhi: India will play a Test match at a neutral venue for the first time in its Test cricket history when they lock horns with New Zealand in the World Test Championship final in Southampton
Among nations with Test status, India and Bangladesh are the only sides who haven't played Test cricket at a neutral venue.
Over the last decade, most international cricket teams have played series against Pakistan at a neutral venue since there was no cricket in Pakistan. The series were mostly in the United Arab Emirates, with almost no crowd for either side as Test matches found few takers in the Emirates.
No country has visited Pakistan for 10 years since early 2009 when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by gunmen. Since India have not played a Test match against Pakistan after the 2007-08 home series, they have not got to play any match at a neutral venue.
India had an opportunity to play at a neutral venue, back in 1998-99 during the Asian Test Championships. The final was played in Dhaka but India failed to reach it and Pakistan and Sri Lanka were involved in the title clash in Dhaka.
According to various reports suggest, India could begin practice only after a three-day hard quarantine in a bio-secure environment during isolation, says reports.
The roadmap could be similar to what New Zealand is following on arrival in England for their Test tour that comprises a two-Test series against host from June 2 as well as the WTC final against India from June 18. Apart from the WTC final, India play five Test matches against England in August-September.
Indian team will depart from Mumbai on June 2 and will undergo, on arrival in England, a 10-day isolation period, details of which are not yet clear since there has been no official intimation from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
However, it is understood that discussions between BCCI and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have been going on and since most India players are already in bio-secure bubble in Mumbai with others joining over the next couple of days, the quarantine wouldn't be a hard one for all 10 days despite India being in the red list of UK government due to rising number of Covid-19 cases.
New Zealand were asked to undergo a mandatory three-day hard quarantine before being allowed to practice in groups of six. They had arrived on Monday and Tuesday in batches.
"The first three days will be spent in hotel room isolation, before mini-training groups of six can be established from days 4-6, pending negative covid results," New Zealand Cricket had said on arrival.
The WTC final at Southampton though will most likely be played in front of a crowd of 4,000 and there could be plenty of Indian fans, though not as many as India are used to at home or even overseas nowadays.
Unlike India, New Zealand have already set up base in Southampton where they have got used to the conditions. The players are even going to stay in the same rooms.
For India, though, the advantage is that they played a Test back in 2018 which they could have won had they not succumbed to Moeen Ali.