England skipper Joe Root admitted that it will be tough to stay away from the virus because it is everywhere and stated that players will have to be braced to encounter positive Covid-19 tests mid-tour, heading into the SL series. Root also spoke of England’s rotation policy for the next two months.
After having seen each of their last two away tours - Sri Lanka in March and South Africa in November/December - be put to a premature end by Covid-19, England will be hoping to be third time lucky, with them set to leave the country on Saturday to play a two Test-series in the Island Nation. Although the English players were lucky enough to be a part of a near perfect home summer which had no blips, it was only weeks ago that they had a horridly anxious time in South Africa, where they were sent home mid-way after a compromise in bio-bubble integrity led to a Covid outbreak in the South Africa camp and within the hotel staff.
Silly as it sounds, the English players are, by now, experienced in dealing with tumultuous Covid-related situations and so speaking ahead of his team’s departure, skipper Joe Root admitted that players will have no option but to be ‘prepared’ to encounter positive cases whilst on the road.
"It's a really dangerous virus and wherever we will be, we will be in contact with it in some shape or form. The reality is, look around the rest of the world, Pakistan in New Zealand, teams have had to deal with cases on tour. That might be the case for us, if so we have to manage it as best as possible,” Root was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo.
"South Africa was a very unique situation, a different set of circumstances. It will be different again [in Sri Lanka and India], we're as best prepared as we can for it and we're fully aware of what we're getting ourselves into. Fingers crossed everything goes well, we look after each other, adhere to the rules, stay as safe as possible and play some really good hard Test cricket.”
England’s three-match ODI series versus South Africa was called off after multiple South African players tested positive mid-tour, whilst inside the bubble, while, on the contrary, the Pakistan vs New Zealand series went on despite a handful of Pakistan players testing positive, as it was detected upon arrival. As of Saturday, the English players have all returned negative results, but Root believes that even should someone test positive, it might not signal the end of the tour.
"I don't think it [a positive test result] will end in an automatic end of the tour. They are decisions that have to be made by the medical staff and the people entrusted in making those decisions. I don't think it's a player decision even though guys have the opportunity to opt out if they don't feel safe.
“All we've got to do is make sure we follow the guidelines as best as possible, if we do that we'll give ourselves the best chance of that not being a situation. Albeit we know the protocols if something was to happen."
The ECB, earlier, made it clear that managing bubble fatigue will be high up on their agenda list, and indicated that they might rest a plethora of big names in the four-Test series against India owing to the same. This decision was not welcomed by many, who questioned the side’s ambition, but Root claimed that it will be unrealistic for anyone to be able to get through all games. The England skipper, who turned 30 three days ago, also asserted that the resting policy will provide an opportunity for several individuals to put their hand up and stake a claim to be in the first XI.
"You look at the amount of cricket on this coming tour and it's unrealistic for everyone to get through the whole thing. Rotation and rest is going to be an integral part of managing this next phase of games. Not only is the mental welfare of the players really important but physically being able to get through, with so many back-to-back games in those conditions, is going to be a big ask.
“We are going to have to be quite flexible and adaptable in terms of selection - which is going to create opportunities for people to stand up and stake a claim at certain times through this winter. It's very exciting and another way we can develop as a squad, in terms of strength in depth."