England set off for Sri Lanka better equipped for touring during coronavirus

England head to Sri Lanka on Saturday

As England embark on a 2021 schedule that will see them start with a series of bio-secure bubbles, Test captain Joe Root has stated the players will be better equipped and assisted for the travails of bubble life. For the first time in the Covid-era, the team will tour with a sports psychologist to aid their mental health and well-being to try and ensure there is no repeat of the issues that blighted their cancelled tour of South Africa.

Having completed a T20 series against the Proteas, the ODIs were cancelled after the hotel in which both sides were staying in was breached by Covid-19. Members of the South Africa squad returned positive tests as well as hotel staff, while England themselves returned two which turned out to be false positives. A lack of faith in the protocols, compounded by the psychological toll of strict confinement, saw the tour end costing Cricket South Africa millions.

It became the second tour England have pulled the plug on due to the pandemic, and they start the New Year fulfilling the first of those, against Sri Lanka, which was postponed last March. The squad will leave the United Kingdom on Saturday. 

To avoid a repeat, the England and Wales Cricket Board have enlisted the help of Dr James Bickley, Clinical Director and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Changing Mind UK, who will be on the ground in Sri Lanka and India to assist on mental welfare.

As well as Dr Bickley’s professional help, Root also believes a more open mind to the realities of coronavirus is needed.

“There’s going to be a little bit of extra support for the players in terms of a psychologist in the ground at all times making sure there’s someone to speak to,” Root said. “Everyone is very aware that if at any stage it becomes too much they are entitled to get out and that’s an important thing to remember. As players as well you have a responsibility to speak up, not just use the staff but the other guys around you as well. As captain that’s a big part of my role to make people are comfortable in the environment, in a position to be at the top of their game and play Test cricket to the best of their ability.”

“Wherever we are going to be we are going to be in contact with it in some way shape or form.  If you look around the rest of the world: Pakistan and New Zealand and other teams when they have travelled have had to deal with cases on tour and that might be the case for us and we’ll have to manage as best we can. South Africa was a unique situation and this will be different again. We are fully aware of what we are going into. Fingers crossed it all goes well and we look after each other and keep ourselves as safe as possible so we can enjoy some hard Test cricket.”

Independent Rugby Newsletter

Live Rugby union coverage direct to your inbox every week

Read our full mailing list consent terms here

Independent Rugby Newsletter

Live Rugby union coverage direct to your inbox every week

Read our full mailing list consent terms here

As for Root, who turned 30 on Wednesday, his role as captain has taken on a greater responsibility. Just as important as on-field marshalling is ensuring those in the squad are coping off it. Players have been open of their struggles, from not being able to get away from the game to the general anxiety over coronavirus and leaving their families at a time when public health and safety is at a premium.

That will only become more pronounced over the next few months. After the Sri Lanka series, England will immediately move to India to play four Tests, five T20is and three ODIs. Though there will be plenty of rotation – last month national selector Ed Smith stated the six Tests against Sri Lanka and India will be treated in blocks of two, with cricketers rested and replacements drafted in where logistically possible – the challenges will remain.

English cricketers are perhaps the most experienced when it comes to cricket on Covid’s terms. Following the summer played behind-closed-doors at Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl, many went on to the Indian Premier League out in the United Arab Emirates and in Australia for the Big Bash League, both of which required hotel room quarantines. With that grew a broader sense of camaraderie and empathy. Calling on those traits will be vital in 2021.

“Throughout the summer we learned a huge amount on bubble life, how we need to do things to make sure everyone is as safe as possible,” said Root. “This tour will be another level up from previous ones. As players all we can do is prepare as best we can before we get out there and make sure we adhere to all the rules.

“It’s a huge part of the role (as captain) anyway but it’s certainly heightened more in times like these. It’s important they can say if they don’t feel they’re in the right space physically or mentally to go out and represent their country. Everyone is very aware of that. As captain you have to take it into consideration with a number of different things.”

Source: Read Full Article