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‘Players Are Fed up’: ECB Won’t Have Strict Bio-Bubbles For India vs England 2021 Test Series

England were forced to name a fresh squad for Pakistan series after being hit by covid cases (AFP Photo)

England were forced to name a fresh squad for Pakistan series after being hit by covid cases (AFP Photo)

England and Wales Cricket Board will relax the rules for its players during the upcoming India Test series.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison has said that they are trying to create safer environment for their stakeholders rather than continuing with strict bio-secure bubbles arguing that the scenario has changed in the past one year. He added that it’s not possible to ask players to remain in restricted environments which have become a feature of cricket tournaments due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus cases continue to rise in UK and England cricket team recently were heavily impacted by the health crisis when they were forced to name a fresh squad after seven members in their camp tested positive ahead of the Pakistan ODI series.

However, ECB has no plans to subject its players to strict bio-secure bubbles.

“We’re in a different scenario to 12 months ago or even six months ago really with respect to how we cope with Covid," Harrison said on Thursday. “We’re really trying to learn how we live with it and create safe environments for people as opposed to bio-secure environments. There’s a huge difference between the two."

He continued, “Players are just fed up with bio-security and bubbles and that language we have become so used to using. It’s had such a detrimental impact on mental health for players, time away from families. We are just not able to operate that kind of environment going forward."

Harrison said people will have to learnto live with covid and that they have enough protocols in place to mitigate impact of ‘inevitable infections’.

“We have to learn to cope with Covid," he said. “We’re going to be living with it now for the foreseeable future so mitigation is the word as opposed to prevention. We think we’ve built in enough protocols now just to try and mitigate the impact of frankly inevitable infections. I think that is where we are trying to ensure that we don’t have instances where entire squads are taken out of circulation because of one or two local infections."

So we’re working very hard to make sure those protocols are in place for the remainder of the season. We’ve communicated these protocols to the various camps and various teams and also the international and county environment," he added.

He said the loosening of restrictions is necessary to ensure the mental health of players. “We’ve spoken an awful lot to players," he said. “We try to work with players to ensure that we can cope with this exceptionally high pressured environment where performance meets health. We have to get that right because if you don’t you lose players. You want them turning up for these ‘most important series’ feeling fantastic about the opportunity to play for their country, or for their team or their teammates."

“You’re not going to do that if they forget the reason why they play. You’ve got to listen to what they’re telling us. Through this pandemic, it’s been very clear to most boards around the world that we need to listen more to the voice of the players. They’ve got lives too and in some cases very young families that they have been pulled apart from for very long periods of time. I’m afraid there comes a point where it’s no longer an acceptable answer ‘once more into the breach my friends’. I don’t believe that is an acceptable place for responsible employers to continue to go. It’s about balance," he added.

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first published:July 15, 2021, 20:40 IST