The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected many aspects of people’s day-to-day lives, and cricket is no exception to this – both for amateur and professional players. But how has the virus changed and impacted upon cricket? What tips should cricketers follow to stay safe now and in the future?
COVID-19 has forced ICC to introduce new regulations around social distancing during a cricket match. Key changes include matches held without spectators in a stadium and the ban on the use of saliva on a cricket ball. Players are encouraged to maintain basic hygiene and distancing during a match.
With coronavirus still a challenge faced by many governments in cricket-playing countries, let’s take a closer look at how cricket has changed and adapted to enable the game to resume. For players who are preparing to return to play, we also look at some essential tips to ensure you stay safe!
5 ways COVID-19 has Changed International Cricket?
International cricket has recently returned with an England versus West Indies Test match, but there have been five major guidelines instigated by the International Cricket Council which has changed cricket for the immediate future.
1. No Salvia Allowed on the Cricket Ball
The practice of players putting saliva to the ball – a ploy used by bowlers to shine one side of a ball to help it swing through the air – has been banned.
“Saliva could be the major contributor to carrying this disease. That is why we banned the use of saliva, although it’s second nature in cricket. However, this is something that players may find hard to manage.”Anil Kumble, chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee and former India spin bowler
If players do forget, however, they will be warned by umpires, but they could ultimately be subject to a five-run penalty.
The players can however continue to use the sweat to shine the cricket ball. This will definitely be a change from how things used to be for cricketers.
2. DRS Reviews Increased to 3 (from 2 earlier)
Each team will now have three reviews, as opposed to two, per innings. This is because international cricket will use home umpires, as opposed to those who are from a neutral country. It is hoped this will cancel out any allegations of bias.
3. Special COVID-19 Substitutes will be Allowed
Teams are permitted special substitutes to replace a player who may go down with symptoms of COVID-19 during a match. This will allow the respective player to undergo a test with a replacement player approved by the match referee, in a similar way to concussion substitutes.
4. Social Distancing on the Field of Play
Players are not supposed to have physical contact with their team-mates, the opposition or umpires while on the field of play.
The players must maintain ‘social distancing’ and ensure there is enough space kept between colleagues to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
This has brought an end to umpires holding a player’s cap or sweater while he is bowling, for example.
5. Players and Umpires to Sanitise Regularly
The cricket ball was called a “vector of disease” and a carrier of COVID-19 by UK Government Prime Minister Boris Johnson. With this in mind players, especially bowlers, and umpires are encouraged to use hand sanitizer regularly after handling the ball.
What Other Changes have been Introduced due to COVID-19?
For international cricket to return players have been forced to stay in what is called a ‘bio-secure environment’.
This means they have had to stay in hotels located on the sites of cricket grounds, away from their friends and families, to reduce the risk of them contracting the virus from outside. This has meant training and preparing for international matches in a period of isolation.
How has COVID-19 Impacted the Cricket Fans?
When the virus hit one of the first things many governments did was suspend sporting events where there were large gatherings of supporters and this included cricket. It meant cricket fans have had to suffer for several months without being able to watch their favourite players in stadiums or even on TV.
Fortunately, international Test cricket returned for the first time in nearly four months last week when England played a first of three Tests against the West Indies in Southampton.
But because restrictions have not been lifted the match had to be played ‘behind closed doors’ which mean no supporters were permitted inside the ground. Indeed, it may be some time yet before cricket fans allowed back into stadiums.
How has COVID-19 Changed Cricket Financially?
The lack of revenue from TV and sponsorship has left many governing bodies, leagues and teams with money troubles. “Unquestionably, it’s the most significant financial challenge cricket has ever faced,” Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England & Wales Cricket Board said recently.
Many governing bodies have followed Cricket Australia, who were forced to furlough (temporarily laid off) the majority of its 200-strong workforce on a 20 percent salary including national team coach Justin Langer.
The suspension of big-earning tournaments such as the IPL has left many players without a vital source of income. County and state teams have also had financial difficulties to contend with.
As well as the professional game, recreational cricket has taken a big financial hit while playing the game was suspended. Members have lost their jobs and unable to pay their annual fees, and like the professional game many clubs have been without revenue from the sale of refreshments and sponsorship.
In some cases, governing bodies have provided emergency funding, but generally, it has left the amateur game really strapped for cash.
Has Cricket been Suspended Everywhere in the World During COVID-19?
Despite the spread of the virus a few countries have been able to continue playing cricket during the pandemic – although inevitably they are in some of the most remote places on earth!
One place where cricket has continued is Saint Helena, a small volcanic tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean which is 1,210 miles from the coast of southwestern Africa, and 2,500 miles east of the Brazilian coastline.
The small British overseas territory, which has a population of approximately 4,500 people, has had no confirmed cases of coronavirus so the cricketers have been lucky enough to continue their matches without any interruptions.
In the South Pacific Ocean, the first country to resume cricket after suspending it because of coronavirus was the Republic of Vanuatu, which consists of 80 islands and was also largely unaffected.
Important Tips For Cricketers to Stay Safe!
In a number of countries around the world cricketers are beginning to return to play the game. But what should you do to stay safe on the cricket field? Here are some top tips:
Tip 1 – Arrive at the Ground Ready to Play Cricket
To avoid players congregating in changing rooms for the foreseeable future it is advised to not to change into your kit in an indoor communal space. The best thing to do is to change into your cricket clothes at home, and arrive at the game wearing your whites, or coloured kit, and ready to play.
Tip 2 – Don’t Share Your Cricket Kit with Others
Remember not to borrow cricket equipment from team-mates, or lend your own kit to other people. This will limit the risk of the virus spreading. There may be occasions when you simply have to borrow or lend protective equipment when batting, so just make sure you use hand sanitiser or alcoholic spray to clean the kit.
Tip 3 – Keep your distance!
Remember that social distancing is an important part in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 and maintaining enough space between yourself and team-mate is crucial.
Tip 4 – Regularly Clean your Hands
The use of alcoholic sprays and hand sanitiser gel rub will become a familiar sight at cricket grounds around the world as the game changes to cope with COVID-19. It’s important for players to take heed of the warnings to clean hands regularly. Where previously cricket might not for a drinks break, now a ‘cleaning break’ is equally important.
Tip 5 – Avoid Touching Hands when Celebrating!
Taking a wicket is a great feeling and it is a natural instinct to give a ‘high five’ to a team-mate, but cricketers must be extra careful with hygiene and avoid hand contact to reduce the risk of transmission. This means slapping hands with a colleague to show joy is not advisable – if you must celebrate, try to bump elbows instead!
Tip 6 – Bring your Own Refreshments
It will be difficult for the traditional cricket lunch or tea to be prepared during this time but you must make sure you don’t get hungry or thirsty during a match. Therefore, it’s important that you have enough food and drink to sustain you throughout a game and you must bring this to the game yourself.
Tip 7 – Avoid getting Drenched (Even on a Cricket Field!)
The closure of pavilions and clubhouses to limit the risk of spreading the virus might leave cricketers in danger of a soaking if rain stops play.
If you have arrived at the ground in a car, you can easily take shelter inside your vehicle. Alternatively, you might need to find a nearby building with outside coverage which you can stand under, at a distance from team-mates. Maybe it’s worth packing an umbrella in your cricket kit – just in case!
Tip 8 – Always Remain Traceable
Clubs and those who organise matches need to keep contact information of all the players, umpires, scorers and officials that are present at a game.
This is to ensure if a player subsequently develops the virus, or is discovered to have accidentally played with it, the people who have come into contact with that person can be easily tracked and traced to inform them.
Thus, it is best to always remain traceable and let the organisers know of your whereabouts for your safety and the safety of your team mates.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented cricket with a number of tough challenges, and many of these will be around for some time to come. However, the spirit and determination of those who love the game dearly will ensure cricket continues to be played, watched and loved by millions of fans around the world.
In the future, this might mean a number of long-term changes have to be made to enable matches to take place. In a post COVID-19 world, for example, it is hard to imagine salvia being allowed on a cricket ball any time soon.
This might frustrate bowlers of all levels, but it is a sacrifice that they will just have to accept. It might be difficult to adjust at first, but many of these changes will soon become a normal part of the playing routine.