PAUL NEWMAN: Covid chaos is far from ideal but the show must go on… A full house at Lord’s would rather see Ben Duckett and James Vince than no cricket at all
- Seven members of England’s playing and coaching staff have caught Covid-19
- The success of the vaccine should allow sport and society to get back to normal
- Cricket cannot afford to go back to playing behind closed doors like last year
- It’s too much to ask players to carry on working in the same place without respite
It has to be this way. Society is rightly opening up and cricket has to open up with it. And if that means England have to play an international series with a ‘B’ squad, so be it.
It would be easy to point fingers at the ECB and question how seven members of England’s playing and coaching staff caught Covid-19 in what is still supposed to be a ‘safe environment’. But unless pictures emerge proving me wrong — we have been caught out by players having nights out in Bristol before — I do not think they have done anything wrong.
Speaking as someone infected by Covid when the ‘Kent’ and ‘South African’ variants were rampant just before Christmas, I know to my cost how you can abide by just about every rule in the book and still fall foul of this virus.
Seven members of England’s playing and coaching staff have tested positive for covid-19
The difference now is that vaccination has substantially reduced hospitalisation and serious illness, and that means society and sport just have to get on with life. Full houses are just around the corner and the world will be a better place for them.
Cricket certainly cannot afford to go back to last year with the empty grounds and sterile environments of biosecure Tests, staged at just two venues with hotels attached in Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl.
The matches were brilliantly organised by Steve Elworthy and his team. They provided great TV and radio entertainment when the country was at a very low ebb and saved millions in otherwise lost revenue for the ECB.
But it is too much to ask players to carry on spending weeks on end living and working in the same place without any respite or access to their families. The mental cost would be in danger of being greater than the physical consequences of Covid.
Cricket cannot afford to go back to being played behind closed doors like last year
As it is, the England team have still been living this season in a controlled hotel-to-ground-and-back-again environment. There has been no eating out in restaurants and minimal contact with families and the outside world while on international duty.
There have certainly been none of the scenes we have seen at the European Championship, where footballers have mixed with opponents and embraced fans.
But the fact England’s cricketers are travelling around the country in cars, trains and — in the case of their match at Durham — planes, and playing at grounds with spectators and staff from outside their ‘team environment’, means risk cannot totally be eliminated.
England are looking forward to the day when double-jabbed people will not have to self-isolate after close contact with a positive Covid case. That might have stopped this week’s shemozzle, which has forced them to rush Chris Silverwood back into the hot seat and pick a new squad as England face Pakistan and devalue a one-day international series.
Until then, the show has to go on with as much normality as possible.
A full house at Lord’s on Saturday would rather see Ben Duckett and James Vince than no cricket at all.
There haven’t been scenes similar to those at the Euros where players have embraced fans
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