Ashley Giles: “We are working back seven weeks from what could be the first Test match” as first 30 bowlers are allowed to train

The England and Wales Cricket Board has confirmed that England men’s players will return to individual skills-based training from next week.

By preparing venues across the country for individual sessions, the ECB will be able to provide a controlled environment that agrees with the Governments guidelines about social distancing measures for players and staff.

It will start on Wednesday. The ECB’s Men’s Elite Performance Programme will write up an individualised training programme for a number of bowlers, who are centrally contracted and invited through the county system.

After about two weeks, and the bowlers have reached their goals, batsmen and wicketkeepers will follow suit and start their respective training programmes on an individual basis.

Ashley Giles, Managing Director – England Men’s Cricket, said: “We are going to be asking approximately 30 players to go back to training so there is no official selection process at the moment.

“We will need a larger group of players given we are planning for the strictest of conditions behind closed doors.

“We will need to take a bigger group of players in with us whether that be to cover injury, for net bowlers, practice matches etc.

“30 players with a red ball focus at first, the white ball players later.”

At this time, it has been decided that centrally contracted white ball players will not be a part of that 30. Giles went on: “There will be a very phased approach as well so the first phase of that will be the bowlers, these aren’t ideal conditions at all.

“We tried to wait for guidelines and the timing has been really helpful from that point of view.

“We are working back seven weeks from what could be the first Test match.

“We know that isn’t confirmed at this point but we have to give our bowlers enough time to get their loads up and get some overs back in their legs.”

Obviously, there will be some precautions and health checks in place for players like Jack Leach who suffer from underlying health conditions and may be considered more vulnerable: “What we will do before people go back is screen everyone both from a physical and mental point of view and that screening will continue daily as guys go into training. That screening may be as simple as a temperature check and a very short form they have to hand in – in which they declare whether they have had any symptoms etc. In terms of individuals – there are opt outs – we are not going to force anyone to go back to training or playing if they are not comfortable.

“Through that physical and mental screening process, we will do our due diligence and see where individuals are.

“In this first phase, this should be a safer environment than going about daily life as it is – shopping etc. We are also outside where we know the risks are far less.

“We will certainly carry out the right risk assessments at the venues we use, we will make sure all the staff are trained, that we have the right equipment including PPE so will make sure everything is there for the guys to go about their business as much as it’s not normal – as safely as possible”.

One of the most-talked about issues with cricket being allowed to be played is the ball. It is touched by almost everyone involved, it is ‘shined’ by one player who may or may not use saliva or sweat. The former spinner said: “It will be a discussion for ICC in the next couple of weeks around playing conditions. It is around mitigating risk – how much risk is there in that? The idea once we go behind closed doors – if that is what step 3 looks like – we are trying to create an enlraged household.

“As we are living now with 4 in this household, there may be a household of 35 players and staff in and around that Test squad. Once they are in that environment and tested and clear, we hope they can lead pretty normal existences.

“However, in terms of ball care it is going to be quite difficult in many examples – how are we going to stop Jimmy Anderson walking back to his mark touching his forehead for example and then the ball. It’s going to be tricky to break those habits.”

With a new “cricket camp” comes the reality of leaving to see family, as many are familiar, Joe Root is expecting a baby. Giles commented: “We are going to have to find ways where we can get players out of their environment.

“Our players will do anything they can to get this going. We have a good bunch of players. But it isn’t realistic to expect them to be in a bubble for 10 weeks.

“We are either going to have to be smart with how we can get guys in and out of that environment. Testing and tracing and tracking will have changed a hell of a lot by then and that should help us. Otherwise, we are going to have to be smart with selection.

Ashley Giles – Former England Spinner

Playing cricket could be considered as dangerous as going grocery shopping, the former international believes: “We need to mitigate as many of the risks around the spreading of the risk of this virus as we possibly can.

“Those are normal behaviours for all of us though. We should all be doing as we are told and being smart. Until step two guidelines are issued which will involved groups coming together and a bit more interaction then we don’t really know what that looks like.

“It is likely that football will probably be modelling that before us quite soon. We will have a good indication from how they go as to how we are going to work.

“We have to remain confident. Big part of my job is trying to get cricket on.

“There are performance aspects of what we do which is about winning and being the best. I also have responsibility as we all do across the world at the moment to our businesses to try and get cricket going.

“It has to be safe and it has to be right. We would never compromise the safety of our players and our people. Right now I am confident. The trajectory we are on who knows what the UK will look like in two months or three months time. Or the world.

“We hope we don’t take another dip which would put all of us back. If we continue on this trajectory hopefully we will have the right conditions to play some Test cricket.”

With the 30 players being selected, it is likely they will be chosen within the next few days. Giles said “I’ve already spoken to a number of CEOs around the country we’re trying to get help from because in this early phase we don’t want guys travelling a lot, we want them to train at their own local venue.

“We’ve had a lot of support which is great there’s a real united front on this and I think everyone understands the importance to the game of getting international cricket on this year from the economics point of view.”

All of us at Park Life Sport hope to see sport resume at some point in the near future and when it is safe to do so, within the Government guidelines.

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