What will bio-secure cricket look like? We assess as England prepare to return
England are scheduled to face West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland across the red and white-ball formats this summer
By James Cole
Last Updated: 24/05/20 11:03am
The England and Wales Cricket Board is exploring how to safely host international cricket this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Players could stay at bio-secure venues in order to get games going in a summer in which England are scheduled to face West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland across the red and white-ball formats.
So, how might that look - and work?
What is a bio-secure venue?
Hampshire's Ageas Bowl and Lancashire's Old Trafford are the two grounds gaining traction, mainly because they have hotels on site, while the Hampshire ground also boasts an 18-hole golf course.
Lancashire's acting chairman Les Platts said: "We have expressed our interest to the ECB and are waiting for a decision on that. We are continuing to plan on the basis it will happen.
"We have done extensive planning now for behind-closed-doors cricket and we are hopeful we will get the green light soon and we will have cricket going again in July."
To make a ground bio-secure, it would be divided into designated zones. These zones would separate the two teams, match officials, ground staff and the media, with movement between the zones strictly limited.
Players would live on-site throughout matches, be tested regularly for COVID-19, and screened daily for symptoms, while one-way paths would operate around the grounds with hand-sanitisers in each room.
The plan, which is being led by ECB head of events, Steve Elworthy, would reduce the number of staff at a Test match from 1,500 to around 300.
What is the proposed schedule?
The hope is to host the West Indies and Pakistan in two three-match Test series in July and August.
The West Indies series would start at the beginning of July, with Pakistan following in early August - Pakistan may also play a T20 series. It is likely both teams would have to quarantine after arriving in England.
These bio-secure plans will not be cheap, not least because the ECB will need to pay for chartered flights for visiting teams.
But with the governing body facing a loss of £380m if no cricket is played at all this summer, it's seen as a worthwhile venture.
When will players start practising?
England bowlers will begin one-to-one outdoor sessions at county grounds later this week, with players and coaches observing strict social-distancing protocols throughout.
They will arrive in their kit, have their temperature taken and use their own designated cricket balls in sessions which will last one hour.
Stage two will see players training in small groups, before a planned third stage of a full training camp.
Sky Sports Cricket's Michael Atherton believes this summer could present a chance for fresh faces if cricket is able to resume.
"It's unlikely that England are going to pick the same team for Test match after Test match. So it may give some opportunities for some young players," said the former England captain.
"With 30 names [potentially in a training squad] you are looking at the England centrally-contracted players. Then you've got people like Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Olly Stone on pace-bowling development contracts.
"You've also got young players like Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley who are not contracted and you'll probably have a few players from the Lions team in Australia this winter - somebody like Dan Lawrence, maybe, who did pretty well down there.
"Given the schedule, which is going to be very tight, and the flexibility required for the selectors, you may see one or two opportunities thrown their way."