A day after five Indian players -- Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Prithvi Shaw -- came under fire for allegedly breaching COVID-19 protocols in Australia, a report of Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya violating the same rules and visiting a baby shop emerged.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Kohli and Pandya had visited a baby shop on December 7 without a mask. The visit to the store was in breach of Cricket Australia's biosecurity restrictions on players, SMH quoted a Cricket Australia official as saying.
Now, Nathan Pongrass -- the owner of Baby Village, Bondi Junction-- has rubbished the report and quashed the baseless allegations. He said that both Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya maintained adequate distance and the staff at the store were prevented from touching or shaking hands with the star players, reported India Today.
Pongrass further added that masks were not a common feature in the first week of December as the number of coronavirus cases in New South Wales was negligible. Reportedly, masks were made compulsory at indoor venues like gaming rooms, hair salons and shops in New South Wales on January 3 after a fresh outbreak in mid-December in Sydney's Northern Beaches area.
"I don't think they wore masks. As I said before, at that time, there weren't many new cases in New South Wales. If you looked through the streets, one in 50 people were wearing masks. Older people were wearing and even some pregnant ladies weren't wearing masks in Sydney," Pongrass told Australian journalist Norman Kochannek.
Pongrass added that the cricketers were kind enough to take a couple of photos with the staff. However, they were not allowed to touch or shake hands with them. "We had a very positive experience. It's really a shame what has happened in the media because of it," Pongrass added.
Meanwhile, the third Test between India and Australia will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) from Thursday.