England captain Joe Root has said he is “very optimistic” Test cricket will take place in his side’s 2020 home season even if that means the squad have to go into more than two months’ of quarantine.
With Britain currently in lockdown because of the coronavirus, a three-Test series against the West Indies scheduled for June has been postponed, with Pakistan due to visit later in a season whose start has now been delayed until July 1 at the earliest.
In a bid to salvage the most lucrative matches following a warning from England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison that a totally wiped out season could cost the board £380 million, some reports have suggested an expanded squad of up to 30 could remain in camp for as long as nine weeks, with Tests played behind closed doors.
Root said as long as the British government relaxed lockdown rules sufficiently to let the matches go ahead some international matches could yet be salvaged from an otherwise possibly barren campaign.
“I’m very optimistic, hopefully that can be the case and it would be a real shame if it wasn’t,” he told the Cricket show on Sky Sports on Thursday. “I think a number of people are desperate to see live sport back on telly (television) and the guys are all very much missing playing and would love to get back out there.”
Root, who saw England cut short a tour of Sri Lanka in March because of the threat of COVID-19, praised the recent input of ECB medics as he stressed: “Safety is paramount and we need to make sure everyone involved is absolutely safe. I’m sure the discussions will progress and we’ll get more information and get closer and closer to cricket being back on and international cricket being played.”
Very different look
One plan would be to have all internationals this season played at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl and Lancashire’s Old Trafford as these grounds, with their on-site hotels, offer better ‘bio-security’ than other Test match venues.
But it could put a strain on players’ private and family lives if they were unable, as is normal in a home season, to go home between matches.
Nevertheless Yorkshire batsman Root, whose wife Carrie is expecting their second child, said he and his team-mates could cope.
“It would be the playing group and management, almost in your own little house, throughout and almost in isolation together, not interacting with the opposition, broadcasting crews, officials or media,” he explained.
“It’d be a very different look to how a normal Test week would go and the environment we work in but I do think it’d probably be manageable and hopefully that’s the case.”
But Root, acknowledging the need for England to be “flexible” in a situation that could “drastically change” in the coming weeks, added “we’ve got to find safe ways of getting out of the bubble”.
“For me that’d be, would I be able to get to the birth, would I then be in isolation for two weeks, would I be able to be tested coming back into the bubble? Who knows exactly what that’ll look like — they’re discussions to be had in the coming weeks. We’ll have to clear up and make sure things are tightly secure so there’s no chance of people getting ill or unwell.”