Ashley Giles says England players' anxiety levels were raised by fears over bubble safety in South Africa
England's ODI series in South Africa was postponed on Monday with both cricket boards concerned about the "mental and physical health and welfare" of their players
Last Updated: 08/12/20 10:56am
Ashley Giles says concerns over bubble safety raised England's anxiety levels after their ODI series against South Africa was postponed.
A number of coronavirus cases meant there were three aborted attempts to begin the three-game series before it was called off on Monday.
One South Africa player and two members of hotel staff tested positive for coronavirus, while two members of the England party returned "unconfirmed positive tests" before independent ratification of those results gave the touring group the all-clear on Tuesday.
The England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket South Africa said the decision to postpone the series was made to "ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams".
Giles, the ECB managing director of men's cricket, said: "The thing that really raised the levels of anxiety and nervousness were that we were coming into a biosecure environment and from very early on it appeared it wasn't biosecure. There's clearly concern when infections spring up in what is a supposed to be a biosecure environment."
Two South Africa players tested positive for coronavirus during the T20I series, which England won 3-0, but the games went ahead unaffected.
Giles said: "It wasn't one case. There were a couple of [hotel] staff members, a couple of South African players. That's the bit that really affected our touring group.
"Perhaps we can't guarantee a place is bio-secure. Maybe that isn't realistic and we have to adapt. But that is the environment we expected when we came here."
England are still set for a two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in January followed by games against India across all formats and Giles, the ECB managing director, is mindful of players' wellbeing.
Asked if players would be asked if they wished to travel, the former England and Warwickshire spinner said: "Absolutely. On the back of this, an important part of it will be mental health screening.
"These are very difficult environments, you are away for long periods, it is tough for everyone and those layers of bio-security just add a different level of anxiety.
"These guys have been living in bubbles for long periods of time and their mental health and well-being is the absolute priority for us. If we consistently say that's the most important thing for us, when we're tested we can't move away from that.
"All of us want this period to be over sooner rather than later. In the meantime, post-Christmas we are going to have to manage our bubbles well and manage our people really well."
After Monday's ODI in Cape Town had been postponed on Sunday night, there seemed a chance that back-to-back games could be staged in the city on Tuesday and Wednesday before England's departure on Thursday.
Explaining why that did not happen, Giles said: "It came down to a wellbeing thing in the end.
"Trying to squeeze two games into two days when this had been going on in the background was going to be particularly difficult and we're better off calling it and looking to re-arrange these fixtures in a better time.
"I don't think it's the last three weeks, it could be the last eight or nine months. These guys have been living in bubbles for long periods of time and their mental health and wellbeing is the absolute priority for us.
"Clearly this was a situation for all of us in the bubble. Not just the players but the management and the South Africans as well."
'Australia monitoring biosecurity situation in SA'
Australia are due to tour South Africa in February for a Test series.
A Cricket Australia spokesman said on Tuesday: "The tour of South Africa is part of the World Test Championship and the Future Tour Program. We will continue to plan for the tour and monitor the biosecurity situation."
Australia batsman Matthew Wade said: "I'm not sure any of the other players have thought about it. I'm sure Cricket Australia and South Africa's board will work together and get the right solution."