The International Cricket Council has issued comprehensive guidelines aimed at the resumption of cricket at all levels- community, domestic and international around the world as various governments have started to relax the restrictions imposed due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The comprehensive document- ICC Back to Cricket Guidelines – has been developed by ICC’s Medical Advisory Committee in consultation with member medical representatives, with an aim to provide guidance for the safe resumption of cricket. Clearly stating key observations and recommendations for how teams around the world should deal with the prospectus of return to training, playing and travelling again.
Here are some Key points from the finely-detailed guidelines:-
Appointment of chief medical or bio-safety officer- The ICC recommends for the appointment of a chief medical or bio-safety officer to ensure all the respective government guidelines are followed as players return to training. The apex body has also asked for a consideration of a pre-match isolation training camp that will involve temperature checks and Covid-19 testing at least 14 days prior to travel.
Boards need to ensure safe workplace for the cricketers- Next up on ICC’s agenda for the respective boards is to provide a safe workplace for the cricketers, which entails risk assessment of training and match venues. There are also calls for maintaining a 1.5 metre distance between players at all times, and thorough sanitation of personal equipment. It also asks players not to hand over caps, towels, jumpers etc to the umpires between overs and there to be no unnecessary body contact between the players. As mentioned in the ECB’s recently-released guidelines, ICC wants players to arrive at grounds ‘ready to train’ and not use common facilities like showers and changing rooms. The ICC has also vouched for minimal use of communal facilities before and after a match.
The four stages of return to training- Players’ return to training has been bracketed into four stages.
Stage 1 involves individual skill-based training, which England have already began for their bowlers. Next stage should kick in with practice in small groups of less than three players adhering to social distancing norms. Stage 3 can have a slightly bigger group of players and a coach (less than 10) while stage 4 will involve squad-based training maintaining safe distance and progressive training intensity in order to avoid the risk of injuries.
Guidelines for bowlers- There are also suggestions of format-specific training routine for bowlers, keeping in mind they run the highest risk of getting injured if proper care is not taken in their return from a lengthy period of inactivity. As per the proposals, boards have been suggested to allow bowlers for a minimum 5-6 weeks of training, with the last three weeks involving bowling at match intensity in order to facilitate a bowler’s return to T20Is. For ODIs, the minimum preparation period is of 6 weeks, and 3 weeks match intensity practice. For tests, the preparation period is two to three months, with the last 4-5 weeks involving bowling at full tilt.
Strict guidelines in maintaining the ball- This agenda from ICC has been the one mostly debated upon in the last couple of days. The issue of maintaining the ball has been a subject of debate given the elevated risk of the transmission of virus through it. And so, the Anil Kumble-led panel has implemented number of proposals to stop this-
a) The ICC has officially recommended that saliva must not be used to shine the ball, while sweat is ok, because it is highly unlikely to transmit the virus. But players across the world have admitted that it will definitely take some time to come out of this year
b) Regular hand sanitising when in contact with the ball.
c) Players not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth after making contact with the ball.
d) The umpires to consider wearing gloves when handling the ball.
Proposals to use an extra DRS and non-neutral umpires in all international games- “Given the challenges of international travel with borders being closed, limited commercial flights and mandatory quarantine periods, the Committee recommended that local match officials be appointed in the short-term” the ICC media release stated, however the appointments will continue to be made via the ICC from local Elite and International Panel umpires.
The committee also proposed that teams to be granted an additional DRS referral per format on an interim basis.
Isolation for all, and no on-field celebrations?- The ICC has discouraged any kind of on-field celebrations like before, as it would lead players to come closer to each other. The board has also said that if any player in a match shows symptoms of Covid-19, then every participant of that game will require tests and a period in isolation.
There are also very strict rules set out for travel, which will first need the adherence of the guidelines set by respective governments. Furthermore, the ICC has called for the use of chartered flights, adequate social distancing on the flight, and slotting dedicated floors for teams in hotel accommodations.