ECB’s Director Ashley Giles revealed that the board was fully aware of the risks that came with easing Covid restrictions, and insisted that it is a very difficult task to keep working on a knife edge. Giles stressed that the board had no option but to bring leniency in order to keep players sane.
The English camp was rocked by a major Covid outbreak on Tuesday as seven members in the unit - three players and four management members - ended up catching the virus. The test results forced the entire ODI squad (that was set to face Pakistan) into isolation, owing to which the ECB named a fresh 50-over squad, led by Ben Stokes, to take on the touring Pakistan side.
In the aftermath of the Covid mess, the ECB has been accused of complacency, but the board’s Director of Cricket Ashley Giles rubbished such suggestions. Speaking to the media, Giles admitted that the board were ‘fully aware’ of the risks that came with easing certain restrictions, and asserted that leniency had to be brought in, in order to ensure the mental well-being of the players. Among other the things, the players, unlike last year, have not been confined to in-stadium hotels, and have also been allowed to excercise in open spaces.
"I don't believe we've gambled at all. We are fully aware of the risks - no one is more than us. That is knife edge we are working on all the time. As well as looking after our people and keeping them sane as much as anything, we're protecting the revenues of the whole game. And it's a really difficult balance to strike,” Giles said, reported Cricbuzz.
"It's something we are constantly juggling with and we are certainly juggling with the amount of time our players have spent in these environments. We have extremely busy schedules and we've been doing this now for 14 or 15 months. To expect them to adhere in the sense they go to the ground, they stay away from each other, they go back to the hotel, they put their masks on and go straight back to their rooms, eat on their own - it's almost impossible for that period of time without losing people.”
The UK started easing restrictions in April, and Giles said that the ECB had planned to “move somewhat with the society.” Giles admitted that the new Delta variant threw spanner in the board’s works, and claimed that the host of positive tests on Tuesday is a grim reminder of the devastating effects Covid can have on a sports team.
"If we go back to the start of this summer, I think we always hoped we would move somewhat with society, as society started to open up. That was always the plan until the variant arrived. So actually what we had planned in terms of opening up, in terms of much more access to families, eating outside, the normal freedoms other people are taking for granted right now, just didn't happen.
"We had discussions about this as recent as the weekend with the players. That we still hoped for this to be the case - and then this happens. It's a reminder to all of us what this can do to a sports team particularly right now. I guess we are sort of living at a different rate to society. We are almost misaligned, at odds to how society is operating. That is particularly difficult when we know one case can shut you down, let alone seven."
Initially only two members from the management had tested positive for the virus, but, by the time the results of the second test arrived, the number rose to seven. Giles asserted that there was ‘no chance’ for the same squad to continue once Tuesday’s results were out. The ECB, as a result, named a fresh ODI squad with Ben Stokes as the leader of the team.
"Even if we had the two originals we had yesterday morning, if the PCRs [from the rest of the squad] had come back clear, then yes, we might have been able to treat this very differently but once it went to this number, that was just no chance.”