Were England's ODIs in South Africa called off too quickly? Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton discuss
Michael Atherton: "I think it is a fair question to ask if the cancellation was hasty given the suspicion the tests were false positives. But I think there was a rising tide of anxiety among the team. In the age of Covid, I would be wary of being too judgmental"
Last Updated: 08/12/20 5:05pm
England's ODI series in South Africa is off - but was that decision made too hastily?
The postponement was announced on Monday, with the country's cricket boards saying the decision was made "to ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams" after a number of coronavirus cases in the bio-secure bubble.
However, on Tuesday it was confirmed the two "unconfirmed positive tests" among the England touring party were in fact false positives, with the camp now given the all clear.
- England touring party tests negative for Covid-19
- Ashley Giles: Bubble safety fears raised player anxiety
- England's ODI series in South Africa postponed
England's group will now depart on Thursday, having played only three T20s on their trip, so could the one-day internationals have taken place?
Sky Cricket experts and former England captains Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain had their say on the latest Sky Cricket Podcast, which you can listen to in the player above or from wherever you get your podcasts.
Also on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast...
- South Africa’s off-field problems
- England's upcoming Test series in Sri Lanka
- Bubble fatigue for players
- Will Pucovski's series of concussions
- Australian prospect Cameron Green
- Great sports commentators
"The good news is that the tests for England were false positives - but they are very expensive false positives, as they have essentially caused the postponement of three one-day internationals.
"I think it is a fair question to ask if the cancellation was a hasty one, given the suspicion that the tests were false positives. Could they have waited?
Each of the one-day games are worth about half a million pounds to Cricket South Africa, broadcast income they can ill-afford to lose, so with a rescheduling they won’t have to give that income back. Postponed was the key word so hopefully supporters will see these games at a later date but the calendar is looking so crammed. When are they going to fit them in?
"But it is a difficult situation and I think there was a rising tide of anxiety among the team. In the age of Covid, I would be wary of being too judgmental.
"I think the bubbles that the players are in are tricky but I have also said you have to have the realisation that professional sportsmen are not having the trickiest time in this pandemic. There are people losing jobs, struggling with all kinds of issues. There needs to be some kind of perspective.
"Equally we have to be aware that if you are spending long periods in bubbles - Jofra Archer was 87 days in the English summer - that must present its challenges.
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.
Ashley Giles, ECB managing director of men's cricket
"I have some sympathy for South Africa because they were trying to balance the requirements of putting on bio-secure cricket with the players [having a bit of normality]. They allowed the England players out to play golf.
"You can't have it all ways - you can't ask for freedom and demand a completely secure bubble. It now maybe that touring teams want things to be done slightly differently and that might add cost for Cricket South Africa."
"After all the effort that has gone in, it is a very legitimate question [as to whether the games could have been played]. On the face of it, England players have not tested positive and are going home, so it's a good question to ask.
"The only thing I would say is that you can't have an ECB constantly going on about mental health and wellbeing of their players and then the moment their players say that bubble life is really getting on top of them and they are feeling the strain, they say 'we are not listening to you'. I think they have probably done the right thing in the end.
"I think England will look back in a year, when their brains are unscrambled and hopefully we are back to normal cricket, and think 'could we not have just played those three games?' No one caught Covid on the England side.
"But you do that sort of thinking when you are crystal clear and calm. There will be a few brains in that bubble that are completely scrambled and any little Covid scare will tip them over the edge. I think that's what's happened.
"A part of me says [with regards to bubble life] that if you take the money and sign up to things, you give it a go, get on with it and don't complain until it becomes too much. Then I do have some sympathy.
"The other option is not to go. Cricketers are like everyone else and have to make a grown-up decision, weigh up the pros and cons of touring, whether that be international or franchise cricket."