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ECB maps out ‘two/three venue model’ for return of international cricket

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The ECB has confirmed its intention for England’s men to play their matches at two venues in the first months of the international summer, with another venue to be used as a training facility.

ECB head of events Steve Elworthy revealed the development on Friday as the governing body aims for the international summer to begin behind closed doors at ‘biosecure’ venues in July. All plans remain subject to government approval. 

Two venues – yet to be confirmed – will be used for televised matches, with the third venue to be used for training purposes.

While still not confirmed, West Indies are set to leave for England next month to begin a Test series in July, with Pakistan to follow for their own red-ball contests.

Explaining the reason for a third venue, Elworthy said: “There is a training venue because for some parts of the summer we may have a couple of teams that want to train pre-series. For example, Pakistan could arrive in the middle of July when the [England-West Indies] series is going on and we need them to be able to train somewhere, so we need a secure training venue.”

Minimising the chances of infection, with less travel required; decreasing the costs of moving people and infrastructure to different venues, and reducing any possible burden on the NHS were reasons pinpointed by Elworthy behind the ECB’s plans for its venue model.

As many as 250 people could be set to enter the ‘bio-secure’ bubbles for matches, with Elworthy revealing the ECB hopes to ensure teams do not stay “in a place for much longer than a month”. Complications remain on how people may be able to leave and then reenter the bubble, but Elworthy added: “Clearly, the more people you have in and out of the bubble, the weaker the bubble is. But at the same time, there are going to be circumstances when people will need to leave. I absolutely get that. We will make sure that the protocols around leaving the bubble and coming back into the bubble are in the shortest period of time but in the most safe and secure way possible.”

On the subject of a player showing Covid-19 symptoms, Elworthy explained that they will be taken into an isolation room, with medical staff recommending the next course of action for players following testing. 

“The latest advice that I’ve got on this is that the medical team on site will make an assessment at the time,” Elworthy said. “That depends on where it is in the game, when it is in the game, what potentially the testing symptom is – all those different elements. Those are the protocols that are currently being worked out because we need to work out the final detail of exactly what that process and protocol means. But at the moment, they will be moved into an isolation room, the medics on site and occupational nurse will make a recommendation based on the test – whatever the test is and the result is. It will be made at that point in time.”

Elworthy added that discussions are ongoing with the ICC over the possibility of introducing Covid-19 substitutes in Tests.

“There are discussions ongoing about having a specific Covid-19 replacement protocol specifically for Test cricket. Clearly, in one-day cricket you come in the morning and then you disappear. I would hope that would be in place well before the Test series starts in July.”

In regards to the West Indies’ visit, Elworthy said: “From a planning point of view we have got everything in place. We’re ready for it, but clearly we don’t want to stray outside of government guidelines and government decision-making. We’re working very closely with them and hoping we are going to get some answers today.”

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