Two months on since he last turned over his arm, England fast bowler Chris Woakes returned to training on Thursday as part of the ECB’s push to host international cricket this summer.
Woakes visited his home ground of Edgbaston to bowl at a net by himself as part of his individual training programme, and while his first session was simply about “trying to get the body moving again”, the question likely to bother him and his colleagues for the foreseeable future is this: what to do without sweat and saliva?
The ECB has banned using both fluids to shine the ball as part of its training principles, helping reduce risks associated with the transmission of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, while the new rules may take some time to get used to, Woakes is adamant that still keeping shine on the ball will not be an issue.
“Moving forward you’re going to have remind yourself that you can’t use those things to shine the ball,” Woakes said on Friday. “Don’t get me wrong, you can shine the ball without saliva and sweat, it probably just doesn’t have the same effect. You might have to work a little bit harder on rubbing on the trousers.
“I suppose that’s going to be interesting over the next few weeks, month or so, to try and figure out the best way to get the ball moving. I think, luckily enough the ball moves around in England anyway. You don’t always have to overly work hard on the ball, so hopefully that’ll work in our favour a bit. Thankfully it’s a Dukes [ball] and not a Kooka[burra ball] this summer, because then we would be struggling.
“The Dukes always gives you a little bit of something as a bowler so hopefully that can continue from my point of view. In regards to the shining of the ball, in England generally you will get a little bit of seam movement. Effectively, it doesn’t really matter if you shine the ball or not. As I touched on, we will find ways to shine the ball, whether that’s being a little bit more aggressive on the shining side of things. I’m sure we will find a way of getting some shine into that ball and making sure it does move off the straight.”
The ECB’s regulations for training differ to recommendations made by the ICC cricket committee, which has only suggested banning the use of saliva, citing medical advice that states the unlikelihood of the virus being transmitted by sweat. Woakes added that it would “be a bit tricky” avoiding getting sweat on the ball.
Chris Woakes was back in action yesterday at @Edgbaston 🏏
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 22, 2020
“The saliva thing is obvious,” said Woakes, “it makes sense not to do that. Obviously sweat’s going to be a bit tricky because, naturally, sweat will get on the ball through hands, especially on the hotter days that we have.
“That’s going to be hard to manage and we’ll probably have to take it on the chin that some sweat will get on the ball. I suppose that’s for the powers above me to figure out what happens with that. I think from a bowler’s point of view we’ve just got to find a way to shine it for harder and longer to find a way of getting some shine on the ball.”
Woakes also provided insight into the procedure of making his session on Thursday, with a temperature check at home followed by a structured journey out onto to the Edgbaston turf.
“We’ve got an app which we have to put in our so-called well-being and symptoms in each morning,” Woakes said. “For instance: is anyone in your family unwell? No. Are you feeling unwell? No. Are there any symptoms? No. Put your temperature, check your temperature in the app, and if all the questions are answered correctly you’re free to go into training.
“The venues and counties have tried to make this as safe as possible. In my eyes, they’ve done a really good job. I knew exactly how I was going to go into the ground.
“I took everything I needed for training with me: bottles. towels, medicine balls, bands that I use for warming up. I was given a box of balls, ready there for me to use once I got into the ground. And then those balls are now mine.”
With the gradual resumption of training, the hopes for the ECB now are that both West Indies and Pakistan can safely visit and play the longest format, and Woakes is hopeful that England will be able to face the strongest possible opposition.
“If we are to try and make this all work, and try and get it as normal as possible, you want the best playing against the best,” Woakes said. “There’s no doubt that England will be picking effectively their best XI for that particular match wherever it may be. Hopefully the West Indies and hopefully Pakistan will do exactly the same. Test cricket is called Test cricket because it is the hardest game played by the best players. Hopefully that can continue.”