Cricket SA (CSA) is not actively developing return-to-play protocols during the Covid-19 hiatus. They don’t need to.
They have instead struck an agreement with the England Cricket Board (ECB) to adopt some of the methods the ECB is likely to employ as part of its return-to-play protocols over the coming weeks‚ if not months.
CSA has the relative luxury of being out of season as far as its domestic schedule is concerned, but countries such as England are facing dire losses with the start of their season on hold.
“We are going to hold hands with England. I’ve reached out to [ECB director of events] Steve Elworthy and [CEO] Tom Harrison. I know both well. Doc [Shuaib] Manjra [CSA chief medical officer] is looking into it‚” revealed CSA acting CEO Jacques Faul.
England will put its protocols to the test at county level‚ as well as during their scheduled clashes against Australia (T20s and ODIs) and Pakistan (Test and T20 series).
Faul is hoping to glean as much as he can from the English experience.
“We are considering making a case to the minister at a later stage. We have been proactive, but England have to develop protocols and guidelines first. What is bio-safe in the UK would be bio-safe here. Stadiums tend to have the same facilities and I think we can get a decent benchmark from them.”
Faul said CSA wants measures in place that will enable it to hit the deck running next season. He acknowledged that the players will have to do their part in ensuring a safe playing environment. Some of the quirks unique to cricket may disappear as a result.
“No saliva on the ball‚ no high fives‚ you may not even have a crowd‚ you can field with masks. If you don’t adapt‚ you will get to return to the field later. You will have to make changes to the game because we are risk-bound‚” Faul stressed.
Though the Covid-19 lockdown has not hit CSA that hard‚ Faul is anticipating a delayed blow.
“Our [business] model is built around hosting international matches. That is where we get the bulk of our money from.
“We haven’t lost content yet, but if India doesn’t come here it is $10m, and that is R180m lost. Then you have to see how your sponsors pay or don’t pay. I think our trouble is still in the mail. The challenges are on the way,” Faul said.
“It will definitely impact negatively on us‚ about that I have no doubt whatsoever.”