Test Cricket, arguably the greatest of all sports, has returned inspite of Covid-19 and for this we have to thank the innovativeness of the English Cricket Board. This piece from the New Yorker is a celebration, both, of the sport and of the new Covid era rules governing the conduct of international cricket.
For starters, applying saliva on the ball – a key skill of a fast bowler – is now banned: “On the field, players could no longer polish the ball using saliva, in their customary way; they were obligated to use only their own sweat. (In June, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked why nonprofessional cricket remained banned, he said that a cricket ball was a “natural vector of disease.” Recreational cricket resumed in July, with less spit than usual, and more sanitizer.)”
Secondly, teams have to stay inside bio-secure bubbles with dire consequences for those who venture out of the bubble: “In early May, the E.C.B. proposed an idea: biosecure cricket. The proposal was similar to the “bubbles” currently in use by the N.B.A. and professional soccer leagues, but cricket’s bubble would be complicated by the duration of a series, and by the need for international travel. A team would arrive from overseas, meet nobody but themselves, stay in hotels that adjoined cricket stadiums, and be subjected to regular medical tests.”
Thirdly, journalists (who would have to pass Covid tests) and players will no longer interact face-to-face: “Two days before I arrived at Old Trafford, I was tested for covid-19 at home by a nurse. (Result: negative.) At the gate, a security guard checked my credentials, and then I was accompanied to a tent where remote sensors measured my temperature. If I had recorded anything higher than a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, I would have been ushered to an “isolation room.” I wore a mask as I walked to my position for the day, in a block normally reserved for corporate guests. The only other person in my section was a genial, cricket-loving doctor, who was employed by the E.C.B. Nobody in the bubble tested positive on any day of the series; the doctor happily watched cricket and read his novel in the sunshine.
Phil Davies, the E.C.B.’s head of security, explained to me the measures put in place for the series. Among other precautions, which included locating coronavirus-secure emergency dentists in each city where matches were played, the E.C.B. had bought, for this summer alone, a hundred thousand surgical gloves, two hundred and fifty thousand face masks, and fifteen thousand litres of hand sanitizer.”
In all of this bio-secure safety, there is just one fly in the ointment – there would be no spectators at the ground. Until the Covid vaccine arrives, cricket matches will be played solely for TV audiences. But hey, we can’t complain, because a live lived without Test Cricket is an incomplete life.
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