With Covid-19 still spreading throughout the world and a safe vaccine months away from becoming a reality, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has begun charting a way back to the field of play as the world governing body for cricket attempts to adjust to a new way of doing things.
On Friday, the ICC published a document entitled, “ICC Back To Cricket Guidelines” with the intent of providing a point of reference for the safe resumption of cricket activities.
Cricket around the globe came to a halt in mid-March with Covid-19 infections soaring across the world. Global infections crossed a million in early April and now, over five million people have been tested positive for the deadly virus which has killed over 300,000 persons so far.
Much is still unknown about the virus leading to world-wide lock-downs and restrictions of movement as a means of stopping the spread.
Social distancing and gatherings of large groups has now become a must in the fight to contain the virus while many countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, have closed their borders to eliminate the possibility of the importation of new cases.
Team sports, by their very nature, go contrary to these new rules and with no signs of slowing down, these new rules are expected to remain in effect indefinitely.
As a result, the ICC is now trying to manage the risks of infections to an acceptable degree so the game can survive in the short term.
In England, protocols have already been put in place for the return to training for the national team as planning continues for the upcoming West Indies three-Test tour of the country.
Former West Indies fast-bowler Tony Gray says the tour will be good for the West Indies players and will instil in them a greater degree of discipline and appreciation for the game.
“I think the tour should go on. I think people are very versed now in making sure the players are going to be safe and healthy, and a lot of procedures are going to be put in place and I think it is going to be beneficial to West Indies cricket, not only financially,” Gray told the Express, recently.
“If you are taking 25 players in English conditions, which are unusual conditions that can change very quickly, it is going to be good for 25 West Indian players, especially younger ones, to get accustomed to those conditions.
“I see it as beneficial to West Indies cricket and I know that people are going to be very versed when it comes to the safety of players. The stipulations about safety and the protocols that will be in place will be good for the players because they will have to show a greater level of discipline. That will be important in their growth and will give them a greater degree of appreciation for West Indies cricket. Discipline will be key in England in all different aspects of the tour,” Gray added.
While the document does not address the question of when cricket can restart, it offers guidance on how members can return to play alongside the resumption of outdoor sport and exercise in their country once they are able to, and many of the recommendations have been incorporated into England’s return to cricket protocols.
The guidelines are divided into three main categories—back to training, back to play and back to travel. The categories are then applied to the resumption of community cricket, domestic/professional cricket and international cricket.
With planning ongoing for the Caribbean Premier League as well as the West Indies tour of England, the guidelines for the resumption of professional cricket and international cricket will be of particular importance for organisers in the Caribbean.
For professional cricket, the ICC recommends health and temperature checks for all participants and Covid-19 testing should be considered, where possible, at training and competition venues.
Consideration should also be given to engaging a Medical Advisor and/or Biosafety Official to assist with planning for a safe return to training and competition.
A risk assessment of training and match venues should be undertaken and protocols for the frequent cleaning of shared facilities should be put in place.
Equipment sharing should also be avoided and hand sanitisers should be placed in prominent places around the venues.
For the return to training, stage one will be individual training.
Stage two will be small groups of three or less players training together but observing social distancing. Stage three will involve groups of less than ten players training under the supervision of the coach and stage four is the resumption of squad-based training while limiting contact. The progression between stages should not begin until it is safe to do so.
A review of the playing conditions to minimise risks should also be undertaken. The ICC had recommended the prohibition of the use of saliva to shine the ball. It also recommends regular hand sanitising and that players and umpires should maintain social distancing on the field of play and avoid handing over of players’ items like caps, towels and sunglasses.
Pre-match isolation is also a consideration in the return to international cricket as well as a need for a detailed plan for the suspected infections including isolation facilities, emergency protective equipment, medical treatment and insurance, as well as recovery strategies and mitigation strategies to contain further spread of the virus within the training or match environment.
“The restart of cricket requires planning to assess and manage the risk of CV-19 infection. Members should follow their government’s restrictions and advice; specifically those related to gatherings, travel, social distancing, and sporting competition for a safe return to cricket. Members may be required to confirm their resumption of training and competition with the responsible government and public health authority along with a detailed copy of their plan for a safe return,” the document outlined.