CPL 2020: Teams unhappy with Trinbago Knight Riders staying outside the bubble and training

A week before the 2020 CPL takes off, disgruntlement has been brewing among several franchises who are unhappy with Trinidad-based players and staff, most of whom represent Trinbago Knight Riders, being allowed to remain outside the bio-secure bubble and continue to train while rest of the squads are cooped up in their hotel rooms for more than a week.

Among those being critical is Daren Sammy, the St Lucia Zouks’ captain, who said “everyone” should have been part of the bubble from the first day to “guarantee” that the health and safety of all stake holders is not “compromised.”

Some of the Knight Riders players who are from Trinidad include internationals Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons and emerging young talent Jayden Seales.

On Tuesday, the CPL sent out a media release saying Zouks and Knight Riders were the first two teams to be allowed to train. The release also said the local Trinidad players and staff had cleared the mandatory testing process and would start entering the bubble this week.

On Monday, Sammy posted two messages without naming any player or team. “How can everybody else be in a bubble no access to training or practice games while others on the outside in a covid infected area be training and playing practice games. Then allow to join the bubble without self isolation,” Sammy said in his first post.

An hour later he put out another tweet, saying: “everyone should have been in the bubble from day 1. That the only way you can guarantee everyone’s health and safety is not compromised. But hey I’m no covid expert.”

In addition to Sammy, it is understood even defending champions Barbados Tridents had approached the CPL, raising the red flag about why the local contingent from Trinidad was not asked to enter the bubble and undergo the mandatory week-long quarantine. Rival teams felt that the Knight Riders were getting an unfair advantage in terms of preparation as most of their squad players were not just training but had also played few practise matches.

As per the CPL protocol, it is mandatory for all team members coming from outside of Trinidad to quarantine in their hotel rooms for one week. After that, each member will need to report two negative tests before heading into training.

Michael Hall, the tournament operations director, said that the CPL has been “extremely careful” about “introducing those who are resident in Trinidad & Tobago into the tournament bubble”.

Although the Knight Riders have made no comment, it is understood that they are satisfied that they have broken no rules. It is understood that Trinidad-based players who are part of other teams like Nicholas Pooran, who represents Guyana Amazon Warriors, were also approached to participate in the practice matches, but they refused.

One person privy to developments said he found nothing wrong with the local Knight Riders players training, considering the Covid-19 pandemic had not allowed them that opportunity since the country went into a lockdown. As for the unfair advantage, the official said the same could apply to Tridents, some of whose players had been part of the Test series in England, including their captain Jason Holder and Shai Hope.

Anyone coming into Trinidad a ‘potential threat’

On August 8, Dr. Akshai Mansingh, the CPL’s chief medical officer, sent a note to all teams, explaining the quarantine norms both for team members coming into Trinidad from outside and for locals.

With regards to team members resident in Trinidad, Mansingh said in an email seen by ESPNcricinfo, that they “can join the bubble having had a negative test after day 8. Thereafter they must remain in the bubble and comply with the above mentioned guidelines.”

Mansingh said with Trinidad recording eight deaths and less than 300 Covid-19 positive cases until Tuesday, “anyone coming in from outside” was seen “as a potential threat.” The country has closed its borders and the bubble was hence mandatory and would also apply to all incoming people, including Trinidadians travelling home from overseas. As for local citizens, there were no restrictions on their movements. “They have not restricted movements of their citizens as they have not had large community spread,” Mansingh said. “This of course could change in the future.”

According to Mansingh, even Caribbean players who were part of the England tour recently would need to undergo the quarantine. “For those of you coming from the English tour, I just want to point out the difference between the two bubbles. When we went to England, we were coming from countries with few cases of Covid-19 into a country where it was rampant. As a result, all that was done was to keep us safe from what was happening outside, and hence people were allowed to move in clusters and meet in rooms etc.”

Mansingh pointed out that all teams had to abide by the “law of the land” and the Trinidad Health Ministry was “very strict” that rules applicable to the bubble had to be adhered to. “We understand that this has been taxing physically and mentally for all, but we have to comply with the rules laid down by the Ministry of Health. We continue to be in dialogue with them and represent the realities in the bubble.”