With England taking on West Indies in the first Test from Wednesday, cricket is returning for its second innings post the long 117-day hiatus enforced due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The bilateral series between England and West Indies does mark the return of the game but it also comes with some significant changes.
The scenes at Ageas Bowl in Southampton clearly suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the sporting world. The teams are meeting in a “bio-secure environment” at Southampton’s Ageas bowl with daily health checks for everyone in the ground – which doesn’t include fans – in the first of a three-Test series.
From the press box to England’s team huddles, everywhere social distancing was the common norm ahead of the toss in Southampton.
England’s socially distanced team huddle. (Reuters Photo)
With players’ safety being of utmost importance for the authorities and the cricket boards, strict quarantine measures have been incorporated ever since the West Indies squad arrived in England.
Also, as the match progresses we will get to see the implementation of new ICC guidelines such as no usage of saliva to shine the ball, no neutral umpires, more DRS per innings, no handshakes, or high-fives.
A smoothly run Test series, played in a strict isolated environment featuring repeated Covid-19 testing and social distancing, can lay the blueprint for future matches and tours in cricket but also for other sports targeting a resumption.
Toss delayed due to rain in Southampton
The much-anticipated return of international cricket after almost four months was, almost predictably, delayed by rain on Wednesday as the start England’s first test against the West Indies in Southampton was pushed back.
Both teams are expected to “take a knee” before the start of the match, and a minute’s silence will be observed to mark the victims of the virus and also former West Indies batsman Everton Weekes, who died last week.
England’s players will also have the names of key workers on their training shirts.