Restarting International Cricket Amid Covid-19

Restarting International Cricket had faced a big setback since the onset of Covid 19 in March 2020. Different leagues, series and competitions were cancelled to contain the spread of Covid-19. The ICC has officially declared the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup has been postponed by a year. As per the initial reports, the Twenty20 world cup was slated for November 2020. It has now been postponed to November 2021.

The 2023 World Cup has also been postponed by eight months. The 2021 Women’s Cup has been postponed by a year due to effects caused by the pandemic. Afghanistan’s tour of Zimbabwe in August 2020 was called off due to a surge of Covid cases in Zimbabwe. 

Restarting International Cricket

The Bangladesh Premier League was also cancelled owing to the rising Covid19 cases. The term bio bubble has been used a lot by cricketers and spectators these days. Players are trying to adjust to the plethora of rules and regulations on the field and off-field. Coaches, players, officials and every person involved in a particular series are being monitored closely for any symptoms. A player who exhibits even the slightest symptoms is not allowed to play or interact with other players.

Every player who is a part of the squad has to undergo a full-body screening for Covid related symptoms and Covid test. This is to eliminate even the slightest possibility of inflicting any player or entourage with the virus. Moreover, if a player displays even the slightest symptom they have to be dropped from the tour.

Travelling with Larger Squads

During the international tours, teams need to spend on accommodating larger squads. A larger squad will help facilitate better rotation of players. This will help players get the required breaks. Moreover, an injured player will not be the only reason for the substitution this time. Players need to be substituted if they develop any Covid like symptoms. With Covid symptoms being similar to any normal cold or viral fever, there are chances of false alarms too.

Fakhar Zaman Dropped From Squad Due to Covid like Symptoms

Recently, Pakistan’s lead batsman Fakhar Zaman was eliminated from the squad after he displayed fever-like symptoms. Even though he tested negative during the preliminary screening, he developed a fever while the team was lodged at a hotel in Lahore. Zaman’s elimination from the team requires Pakistan to change its strategy for the top three positions during the Twenty20 series against New Zealand.

The chances for the player reporting at a later stage is also ruled out due to stringent regulations and Covid-19 protocols. As for the players, travelling from one country to the other is extremely exhausting. They have to follow the regulations placed upon them by both the countries and their respective boards. Moreover, they are uncertain about what new regulations might come up given the rapidly changing circumstances.

Seven Pakistan Players Tested Covid Positive During the Quarantine

Before the match begins, the players will be isolated in a quarantine camp. Recently, the Pakistan players who were travelling to New Zealand for a tour underwent isolation at Lahore in Pakistan. Further, they had to undergo quarantine when they arrived in New Zealand. Along with the players, their coaches, managers and family members had to undergo the quarantine period. If a player develops Covid19 symptoms during this time, they have to be dropped from the squad. Most tours do not allow the player to join the squad even at a later stage. The pre-match isolation period is compulsory for the players and no player is allowed to breach the guidelines. 

The Pakistan cricket team had to face backlash and a final warning due to their irresponsible quarantine behaviour. It is reported that around six Pakistani players from the Zimbabwe tour have been tested positive. The Pakistan players had just arrived in Zimbabwe and had started their quarantine period. Zimbabwe had earlier reported that the Pakistan players were seen interacting with each other and sharing food amid their quarantine isolation period. The Pakistani players are facing a final warning and have lost their training privileges due to the reported cases. 

Recently, the West Indies players undergoing quarantine in New Zealand have also lost their training facilities and privileges during quarantine as the players were captured mingling and sharing food on CCTVs. Jofra Archer, England’s star pacer will have disciplinary actions taken against him after he breached the Covid-19 protocol in West indies. If his breach was not identified and contained at the right time, the England cricket Board would have lost millions of pounds.

Restarting International Cricket, The Rules imposed by ICC

Owing to the current situations, the ICC has released a set of guidelines apart from the rules imposed by individual cricket boards and countries

No Spectators

This rule however has changed for some matches where crowds are being allowed. The ongoing Australia India series is planning to have stadiums with 50 percent spectators. However, these rules will be subject to change in case of any recent surge or decline in the cases. As of now, most matches will be played without hearing the spectators applaud the team or motivate teams to do better.

No Saliva to Shine the Ball.

Gone are the days when you could give the ball an extra shine. A five-run penalty will be imposed on teams that will use saliva on the ball. Before the five-run penalty, two warnings will be issued.

Substitutions During an Ongoing Match

Teams can substitute a player from an ongoing match in case of any visible Covid 19 symptoms. However, this rule applies only to the Test Series. The limited-overs matches and series cannot benefit from this rule.

Umpires

Local umpires will give a final verdict during the matches. The risk involved in flying non-neutral umpires from different countries is a reason to eliminate them. The DRS calls in a Test match has been increased to four and in ODIs, they have been increased to two.

No Sharing and Sufficient Breaks

Players cannot share the gloves, balls, water bottles during a match. Sufficient breaks have to be provided in between matches to sanitize the fields. 

Effect of the Covid Protocol on the Player’s Emotional Well Being

Playing amid the pandemic has been challenging for many players. Staying in restricted environments for this long has started to take a toll on their well-being. Recently, a few Australian players have declined offers to play in domestic tournaments due to prolonged exposure to the bio bubble. Staying in the bio bubble, they cannot interact with the outside world and meet their family. Players who met their families during the ongoing series have faced penalty and disciplinary actions.

Moreover, the matches are played without any spectators and fan cheering. Steve Smith recently spoke about how this is a crucial time and that players need to open up to their coaches and teammates about their mental health. A suitable break for key players is essential to rejuvenate their health.

In November 2020, the South Africa-England, New Zealand-West Indies, Australia-India matches are in progress. The Afghanistan tour of Australia, Pakistan tour of New Zealand and Sri Lanka tour of South Africa is expected to start in December 2020. For the next year, schedules till October 2021 have already come out.ICC requested all the boards to take appropriate actions and penalties in case of any breach. Further, the rules will be made more stringent or relaxed depending on the situation of the venue.

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