COVID-19 pandemic has severally impacted sports events across the globe. Major sporting events like Tokyo Olympics, French Open Tennis Tournament, Wimbledon, Tour-de-France, Formula – 1 season, all of them got postponed. Champions League matches, Association Football Leagues matches, and 2022 World Cup Qualifier matches across the globe got postponed. However, after taking several precautionary measures and following certain norms, international sports have been making a successful comeback to the field. Football leads the way, and now matches are being played in Bundesliga, Premier League, La-Liga, and other major leagues. Recently, Formula – 1 also resumed in remote Spielberg track in Austria. The safety measures implemented in these sports are – Extensive and Regular Testing, Closed events without spectators, minimal personnel, isolated travels, and social distancing
Drawing inspiration from other sports, International Cricket is now set to make a return after a gap of 4 months, when touring West Indies cricket team will start play on July 8 against the host England at the Rose Bowl, Southampton. The Zimbabwe-Bangladesh T20 match played at Mirpur on March 11 was the last international match before the Covid-19 pandemic took over the Globe suspending every sports event. This gap has been the longest gap International Cricket has seen since World War II. Even during World War II days, first-class cricket was not suspended in countries like India
West Indies team led by Jason Holder, reached England a month in advance – on June 9, and observed 14 days home quarantine in Manchester’s Old Trafford. Players will have to undergo twice-weekly testing for COVID-19 and are not allowed to go outside the hotel. The team also had two intra-squad practice matches to get acquainted with the lockdown conditions. England team, too, had one such intra-squad practice match at Southampton.
Ensuring player and staff safety, the teams will live, train, and play in a “bio-secure” environment for the entire tour. Since England captain Joe Root has left the bio-secure bubble to attend the birth of his second son, he is excluded from the squad. In his absence, the England squad will be led by Ben Stokes.
In June, ICC has made several interim changes to the playing conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a test match, a substitute can be used for any player showing COVID-19 symptoms. Players are banned from using saliva to shine the ball. In the case of two warnings of saliva use, five penalty runs shall be awarded to the opposition. There would be an additional DRS available per inning.
The test will be played without spectators in the stands. The two captains and match referee will go for the toss, no camera during the toss, and no handshakes after the toss. The two umpires will carry their bails. Umpires will stop play for cleaning breaks to sanitize the stumps. Players will not be allowed to share gloves, water bottles, bags, or sweaters. Umpires will not take the sweaters/caps of the bowlers. There will be no ball boys, and the substitute players will do their job. If a ball is hit into the stands for a six, then the squad players wearing gloves will throw the ball back to the filed. No one else will be allowed to touch the ball. Ground staff shall not go within 20 meters of the players. After a gap of 26 years, both the Umpires will be from England in a test match, as neutral Empires are not permitted in pandemic conditions.
Cricket is going to make a comeback with the introduction of many new things that may or may not be the new normal. Regarding the strengths of the team, hosts England are indeed the stronger of the two sides, but we should not forget that the visiting team is the holder of Wisden Trophy – West Indies beat England 2-1 last year. Captain Jason Holder said in his statement – “We have come to England to retain the Wisden Trophy.” The teams first met in a test match in the year 1928. West Indies has not won a series in England since 1988. England will have the benefit of playing in their home conditions. Sophisticated attack and mix of youth in their batting line-up will see the team in a comfortable position. Whatever would be the outcome of this test match/series, it will mark the beginning of a new era for cricket.
To protest against racism in sports, West Indian cricketers will sport a “Black Lives Matter” logo on the collars of their shirts.