When, How, and in Which form will cricket make a comeback after COVID-19

With an audience of over 2.5 billion fans spread across 180 countries, cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world. Cricket is most popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, and subcontinental Asia, and migrant patterns over the past few decades has helped in spreading the sport’s popularity worldwide.

As long as there has been cricket, there have been bets on the outcome, too. Whenever there is a high voltage match between teams like India and Pakistan, millions of cricket fans place bets on their favourite players and teams. And with cricket betting online, it’s now possible for people to place bets from the comfort of their home. Also, players can take the help of cricketbettingtips.io and other sites to make improved betting decisions during the game.

The recent outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has hit the cricket world hard. Initially, most of the cricket events were either cancelled or postponed. Most cricketers were spending time at their homes with their families, and some of them were using this period to interact with their fans on various social media platforms.

After months of lockdown across various countries around the world to curb the spread of novel coronavirus, cricket is finally, and slowly, starting to make a comeback. According to recent reports, the English Cricket Board (ECB) is first to take the charge. The BCCI, considering a large number of cases in India, has made no moves to resume cricket in the country. But it seems that the ECB will be the first to get their players back on the field.

The term used to outline ECB’s plans is ‘Biosecure’. Last week, the ECB spoke to its players about having a pool of 30 cricketers stay together for 9 weeks while they play a test series against West Indies and then Pakistan. The West Indies tour of England, which is scheduled from July 8 to July 28, will mark the return of cricket amidst the pandemic.

However, the crowds are not going to be the part of the Test series to curb the spread of coronavirus. As mentioned earlier, all the matches will be held in a bio-secure environment while following all the health guidelines issued by the International Cricket Council (ICC). In the absence of spectators in the stadium, organizers are looking at different creative options to improve the overall experience for players in empty stadiums.

Sound clips from previous matches will be played

According to The Times, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and West Indies Cricket have agreed upon playing some sound clips from previous matches in order to bring some normalcy during the series. Also, both teams would be deciding on which sounds to play in the stadium. Furthermore, the broadcasters would also be controlling the stump mics in the absence of noise at the stadium.

Many cricketers have admitted that the experience of playing in empty stadiums would be different as they thrive on the energy from the crowd. In the absence of fans in the stadium, it’s possible that there can be a lack of zeal and competitive spirit among the players. West Indies pacer Kemar Roach supports the idea of playing fake noises in the stadium as he thinks that some noises would be better than nothing.

Roach further added that it would be somewhat weird to play like this as stadiums in England are generally packed in normal conditions.  “Some noise around would be great. It will be strange for us playing in England where there is always a lot of crowd noise and atmosphere,” Roach said.

All the matches will be played at just two stadiums and players will be accommodated in nearby hotels, as they stay away from their families for the entire 9-week period. Also, there will be regular COVID checks and the big pool of 30 players will also provide with the ability to rotate players in order to avoid exhaustion during the six Tests they play.

Australia is focusing more on the home test series against India

Among the ‘big 3’ of world cricket, Australia, is in fact, in the best position when it comes to fighting against the spread of coronavirus. Australia’s cases are down to a few hundred and the process of getting back to normal life has already started there.

According to recent reports, Australia will likely start pre-season training by the end of this month. The Australia board let go 80 per cent of their staff till July citing the reason that if they didn’t do so, they will be out of funds by the end of August. And even though the T20 World Cup is scheduled in the country in October, they’re focusing more on the home series against India to help them get out of this situation.

While India’s current situation indicates that cricket in the country in the near future looks unlikely, the BCCI can help other boards by travelling to the nations that are safe. Recently, the treasurer of BCCI has said that the board would be happy to place the entire team and support staff in a two-week quarantine in Australia before the commencement of the series.

What safety precautions are in place?

The ECB will undertake various measures which it believes will make the environment as safe as possible. The entire squad and support staff will have to attend training in full kit, follow social distancing, and take temperature checks on arrival. If any medical treatment is needed, it will be provided with the use of full personal protective equipment and will be outdoors where weather-conditions permit. Director of cricket Ashley Giles says that the process will make it safer than a trip to the supermarket.

How different could cricket look?

The popular method of shining the ball using saliva has drawn the attention of the ICC’s medical advisory committee. The committee has recommended banning this practice for the time being. Sweat will be allowed, as it is deemed to present a lesser risk than saliva. While playing on the field, there will be a ban on hugs, handshakes or close-up celebrations and umpires have been instructed not to take jumpers or caps from players.

What about the T20 World Cup in October?

The idea of inviting 16 cities to seven host cities in Australia in October seems to have a growing acceptance. The ICC was to debate on the matter in depth but pushed the subject backed to its next meeting after getting sidetracked over a middle row.

What impact will all this have financially?

The ECB has stated that the crisis could cost it £380 million, with a minimum loss of around £100 million. Nevertheless, it has approved a package of £61 million to support the game. England’s contracted players have contributed £500,000, and executives have taken pay cuts. Also, a collective agreement has been thrashed out between the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the ECB, and the 18 first-class countries.