ECB’s director of cricket Ashley Giles has warned the English squad that return to group training at the Ageas Bowl’s bio-secure bubble will be no “holiday camp” with stringent social distancing norms in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of their three-Test series against West Indies, starting July 8, a 30-member group has assembled at the Southampton, where they will live and train in a bio-secure environment.
“Inside, social distancing, wearing of masks, and probably spending a lot of time on your own isn’t a lot of fun and it is a bit of a culture shock. It will be weird – anyone who thinks this is going to be a holiday camp is going to be seriously mistaken,” Giles was quoted as saying by ‘Sky Sports’.
“There could be opportunities for guys to play golf on the course next door but apart from that, there are two sessions of cricket a day, so there is going to be a lot of work,” he added.
Giles emphasised on the need to maintain safety protocols.
“It is about removing as much risk as you can and it is down to all of us to police it. We have been in constant dialogue with the players and they are all very aware of the seriousness of the situation,” he said.
“People are going to make mistakes, we all are, but for the sake of everyone’s safety and the cricket, we need to operate within these protocols as much as we can,” he added.
The former England spinner said the board hopes to allow players to leave and re-enter the team “bubble” during the series, including skipper Joe Root, who is expecting the arrival of his second child in July and could miss a match or two to be with his wife Carrie.
“We are going to have to find opportunities to get guys out of the environment and back home but it is important that if they are coming back, that when they leave they are going to a safe environment,” Giles said.
“We haven’t talked about banning players (from pubs and restaurants) but we would ask them to be sensible, which they have been throughout this whole process.
“They need to continue that because if you come back into the environment and you haven’t been adhering to the guidelines, then you put everyone else and the series at risk,” he added.
The series will mark the resumption of international cricket after the coronavirus hiatus.
“We could have a very secure bubble, yet the rest of the world is operating at a new normal in terms of going to pubs and restaurants, but our main responsibility is to get this series on the road and keep everyone safe,” Giles said.
“Especially the West Indies team, who have done so much to come here. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.