The England and Wales Cricket Board is working to ensure its national teams can tour this winter, but the proposed test series in Sri Lanka is proving problematic amid concerns about the country’s quarantine rules.
Talks with South Africa over a six-match white-ball tour for Eoin Morgan’s men next month are currently at an advanced stage, while there is an agreement for Heather knight’s women’s side to travel to New Zealand in February.
But there is less clarity about the men’s trips to Sri Lanka and India from January onwards, as the former appears to depend on a change in her government’s policy, while the latter is now one of the epicenters of the global pandemic.
Teams that visited England this summer were technically quarantined at cricket ground hotels in Manchester, Derby and Worcester, but thanks to government-approved ECB biosecurity protocols, they were still able to train during this period.
However, Sri Lanka has so far failed to secure a similar exemption, with Bangladesh cancelling a three-match test series this month after rejecting the prospect of isolating players in hotel rooms for 14 days on arrival.
Tom Harrison, chief Executive of the ECB, said: “we are working to ensure that the business of international cricket continues to grow. [But] the Bangladesh tour to Sri Lanka is an understandable situation for the Bangladeshi team; two weeks of quarantine is not an easy thing for the players, and I don’t think we will agree to that either.
“We will not sign plans that do not suit us, in terms of our # 1 priority: the health and well-being of players and staff on these tours.”
Professor Nick pierce, chief medical director of the ECB, insists that hotels in the stadium are not a prerequisite-a trip to South Africa may lead to the fact that England will stay in the same hotel Cape town and will travel for the matches at Newlands and Paarl, but fears how strict the quarantine period will affect the mental health of players.
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The growing number of COVID cases in the UK is not helping the case for exoneration, and it is possible that a neutral location will be requested. The United Arab Emirates, currently hosting the Indian Premier League, are already discussing an upcoming tour of India, even if the BCCI still hopes the situation at home will improve.
You need to see the ECB doing its bit after its own season was saved by the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia travelling to England.
And while there is uncertainty about the home summer of 2021, when Indian men will arrive for five tests, there is hope that the biosecurity model can be relaxed, both because of the exorbitant costs and the demands it places on those who participate.
Piers said: “there is no chance of a five-test series in India when everyone is locked up for the whole time. We saw this summer that the ceiling is probably three to four weeks [in a bubble] – you need a timeout.”
The ECB has spent around £ 1m on Covid-19 testing alone this year – around 10,000 tests were done at £ 100 each – amid losses of over £ 100m due to the pandemic. Harrison admitted that he was making contingency plans for similar financial pain next year, with all eyes on winter sports in regards to the return of the crowd.