The women’s cricket final between Australia and India in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games saw some surreal scenes play out at Edgbaston on Sunday. Australia all-rounder Tahlia McGrath was cleared to play the gold-medal match despite returning a Covid-positive test earlier in the day. She sat away from her team-mates with a mask on, awaiting her turn to bat, and when Australia fielded, she bowled two overs and waved away team-mates rushing to celebrate after she took the catch of Shafali Verma. After Australa’s nine-run win, though, the distancing norms were forgotten in the frenzy of the team’s celebration.
The toss had been delayed by close to 15 minutes even as deliberations were on over Tahlia McGrath’s inclusion. “Before the toss we got to know … that was something which was not in our control and whatever the decision the Commonwealth had, we had to follow it,” India captain Harmanpreet Kaur said.
“We can confirm that cricketer Tahlia McGrath has returned a positive test for Covid-19. CGA (Commonwealth Games Australia) clinical staff have consulted with the Commonwealth Games Federation RACEG (Results Analysis Clinical Expert Group) team and match officials, and McGrath is taking part in today’s final against India,” Cricket Australia (CA) stated.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 7, 2022
“McGrath presented to team management with mild symptoms on Sunday and subsequently returned the positive test. She was named in the starting XI at the toss and the International Cricket Council (ICC) approved her participation in the final.
“In consultation with the CGF and the ICC, CGA and Cricket Australia medical staff have implemented a range of comprehensive protocols which will be observed throughout the game and for post-match activity, to minimise the risk of transmission to all players and officials.
“The CGA has maintained a comprehensive Covid-19 risk mitigation strategy for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, with testing protocols over and above those required by the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee.”
A positive Covid test doesn’t necessarily rule out an athlete from participating in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, as the hosts United Kingdom’s guidelines for isolation are relatively relaxed. Players returning positive tests are to be accordingly evaluated on a case-by-case framework to determine their eligibility to compete. That is ascertained taking into consideration various factors such as how severely a player has been impacted by illness, how infectious the player is likely to be, what sport the player is going to participate in and the nature of the facility in which the particular discipline is being held.
Megan Schutt, the Australia seamer, said McGrath was feeling “absolutely fine”. “We were all happy to play, she was happy to play,” Megan Schutt said. “She feels absolutely fine so I think the positive result was a bit of a shock to her, but that’s Covid isn’t it – we’re all going to live through it.
“We didn’t want to get in trouble, we felt bad for Tahlia at the end there,” Schutt said. “Obviously when you’re part of a game that’s so thrilling like that, that’s all you want to do [celebrate] and at the end screw it, if we get Covid, so be it.”
Australia opener Beth Mooney said that an elite athlete shouldn’t be “publicly shamed” for a bout of Covid. “It’s a real shame that in elite sport you get publicly shamed for having Covid when over here probably 90% of the people in this room have it right now,” Mooney said.