'Totally different dynamic': World Cup COVID rules relaxed

While Pat Cummins admitted tight restrictions had helped galvanise Australia in last year's World Cup win, players were embracing new-found freedoms

The coming weeks could see a repeat of the Tahlia McGrath incident from the Commonwealth Games, with the ICC confirming players who test positive to COVID-19 will be permitted to play T20 World Cup matches.

Australia won last year's T20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates in unique, pandemic-dictated circumstances requiring teams to abide by strict bio-security protocols that restricted their contact with the outside world.

Players are hardly longing for the return of bubbles, but Pat Cummins admits they actually helped foster team spirit during their maiden men’s T20 title run, with players given little choice but to spend time with each other.

'Everyone's pumped': Aussies detail back-to-back strategy

This year's World Cup in Australia, a country that has previously employed some of the world's strictest COVID-19 measures, will see a considerably more relaxed approach.

It is a similar attitude to the one taken by the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham earlier this year, where those who tested positive for the virus were dealt with on a case-by-case basis and not necessarily prevented from competing.

But it marks distinct shift in how cricket, and the ICC, deals with COVID-19 given the tight rules applied for other flagship events held since the pandemic started.

The Australian Federal Government's mandatory isolation requirements for those who contract COVID-19 ended earlier this week, just in time for the beginning of the preliminary stage of the tournament getting underway on Sunday.

The ICC says there will no mandatory testing during the tournament and no isolation period if a player gets COVID-19, instead putting the onus on team doctors "to assess whether it is appropriate" for players to compete if they get COVID-19.

Teams will however be permitted to make squad changes should a player return a positive PCR test, with the infected player then allowed to return to the squad upon returning a negative test.

In August, McGrath tested positive on a dramatic morning of the gold medal match but was eventually permitted to play. She wore a mask while off the field and sat away from teammates while they batted, but was later welcomed into celebrations after the Aussies defeated India.

Cummins, who missed last summer's Adelaide Test after being deemed a close contact of a positive case who sat near him at a restaurant, said it has been a relief to shed the more onerous bubble rules.

"It's a totally different dynamic," Australia's Test captain told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday, on the eve of the defending champions' final warm-up match against India on Monday.

"The team went out for dinner last night and we actually were chatting about it, (saying) 'this is the first time we've done this for about three years'.

'It's great fun. It's one of the main things we all love about playing for your country – you get to go and see new places and experience different things."

Agar 'starting to feel really good', clear on Cup role

The bubble for last year's men's T20 World Cup held strong, but the virus had the potential to force teams into radical personnel changes given positive cases had to isolate for 10 days whether symptomatic or not, and close contacts six days.

Star allrounder Ashleigh Gardner caught COVID-19 in Christchurch earlier this year during the women’s 50-over World Cup but recovered to feature in Australia's title win.

That came after Australia’s Under-19 men’s World Cup campaign continued despite an outbreak of the virus within the team, which at one stage marooned players across three different Caribbean islands.

Despite acknowledging the importance of reducing the spread of COVID-19, few players are mourning the loosening of restrictions.

But Cummins conceded the restrictions had helped the Australian men's side collect their first piece of silverware in the shortest format in November.

"Last year we had a lot of fun, but it was really (only) our group. You didn't see anyone, even hotel staff. You were by yourself," he said.

"T20, (more than) any other format, is a format where if someone has an off game or two, you can't just wallow in it. You need to pick them up straightaway.

"Having a really tight group in T20s is important because it means you can go out and be fearless and brave, and you know your teammates have got your back.

"I thought that was a big part of it last year.

"You've got to try to be proactive about it. This is a quick tournament, it's only two or three weeks.

"Prioritising our team time (is important). It's the start of the summer so everyone is relatively fresh and excited. Just making sure we find time for team activities."

Men's T20 World Cup 2022

Australia squad: Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Aaron Finch (c), Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

Australia's T20 World Cup 2022 fixtures

Oct 17: warm-up match v India, Gabba, 3pm AEDT

Oct 22: v New Zealand, SCG, 6pm AEDT

Oct 25: v 1A, Optus Stadium, 10pm AEDT

Oct 28: v England, MCG, 7pm AEDT

Oct 31: v 2B, Gabba, 7pm AEDT

Nov 4: v Afghanistan, Adelaide Oval, 7pm AEDT

Click here for a full 2022 T20 World Cup fixture