Cricketers have a whole new list of protocols to follow
Cricketers have a whole new list of protocols to follow. Image Credit: AFP

Regular hand-sanitising when in contact with the ball.

No loo or shower breaks while training.

Minimising time spent in the changing room before and after a game.

No handing over of personal items (cap, sunglasses, towels) to fellow teammates or the on-field umpires.

Finally, no use of saliva on ball.

By now, most readers of this column are aware of what I am talking about — these are the guidelines released by the International Cricket Council (ICC) last week as they seek to reopen the cricket world — hopefully in July. Not surprisingly, quite a few former cricketers have already found it impractical and premature.

These steps, remember, come along with the mandatory 14-day quarantine — and one cannot help but get a feeling that it’s going to be a handful for all the stakeholders to adhere to such stringent dos and don’ts during the heat and dust of an international cricket match.

It was wonderful to see Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes, two leading English cricketers, release video clips on their Instagram of them breaking into their bowling run-ups all by themselves — a sense of relief writ large on their faces. A selection of the West Indies players, at the other end of the world, have also begun practice sessions in small groups — all in the hope of resuming the game with a three-Test series in July in a ‘bio-secure’ environment.

It sounds like a plan for at some point, it’s up to the entire cricket community — be it the establishment, cricketers, match officials and broadcasters to be on the same page and get the action started. It’s a given that there should be no stones left unturned to ensure the health and safety of all concerned with the sport but then, it should not be too complex an affair which interferes with the normal flow of the game.

The desperation of England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to host Pakistan and the West Indies is understandable in view of their ongoing mega-deal with their broadcasters, and the matches are supposed to be held in ‘bio-bubble.’ This is where Rahul Dravid, the Indian cricket legend and now director of their National Cricket Academy (NCA), raised a valid point: “In case of the bio-bubble, you do all the testing and quarantine and then on day two of the Test match, what if one player, for example, tests positive? What happens then?”

It’s again a valid point — and this is where cricket should do well to pick the brains of the football administrators in Europe to see how they are going about their job. Bundesliga had shown the way only last week and English Premier League has taken some firm steps towards their ‘Project Restart,’ with a big one coming on Wednesday when the 20 clubs had agreed to start contact training, including tackles.

While patience has to be the watchword for all cricketing set-ups, let there be a situation where each cricketer can step onto the ground with the mental frame that everyone has received an ‘all-clear’ with repeated tests — rather than cast a wary eye on the fielder next to him in the slip cordon.

It’s going to be a Herculean task for cricket and it will be interesting to see how they react to the challenge in the coming months.