On the eve of their first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi, England are in disarray after 13 to 14 staff members, including half of the 16-man playing squad, fell ill on Wednesday. England had announced their playing XI for the match a day before the scheduled start of the match (December 1); however, a majority of the players in the XI are now down with a viral infection. In fact, only five England players — Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root — turned up for the training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.

The rest of the squad members, including captain captain Ben Stokes, stayed in the hotel.

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Root also attended the press conference on the eve of the Test match and when asked whether he could take the captaincy role if Stokes doesn’t get fit in time, Root said, “I don’t think so. Ollie Pope did the job in the warm-up and would do a fantastic job.”

Joe Root had stepped down as England’s Test captain earlier this year after he had admitted it had taken a toll on him.

“I have loved leading my country but recently it’s hit home how much of a toll it has taken on me and the impact it has had on me away from the game,” Root had said in a statement announcing his resignation in April.

“It has been the most challenging decision I have had to make in my career,” the 31-year-old Root had further said, “but having discussed this with my family and those closest to me; I know the timing is right.”

This will be England’s first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years; the side had earlier toured the country for the seven-match T20I series preceding the T20 World Cup, and also met Pakistan in the final of the marquee tournament where England had registered a five-wicket win.


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