The International Cricket Council (ICC) perceives the cricket ball as the biggest risk factor in its endeavours to resume the game. So days after prohibiting the application of saliva on leather, a usual practice to ‘keep’ the ball, the ICC, in its guidelines to a safe resumption of the game, sheds a lot of thought on the “management of the ball.”
To start with, they emphasise on not sharing the equipment, which is feasible with all other equipment of the sport but the cricket ball. It passes hands between overs, at intervals, and at the close of play. The guidelines vaguely specify role-specific measures to minimise the risk the cricket ball entails.
For instance, the umpire can wear protective gloves, the bowlers should refrain from touching eyes, nose, and mouth after making contact with the ball. They can’t obviously use saliva (though sweat is permissible), and should regularly rinse their hands with sanitisers after touching the ball, which probably he/she could between overs. Moreover, they should now manage sun-glasses, sweaters and caps on their own.
It’s trickier for fielders to keep their hands regularly sanitised with alcohol-based hand-rub as the ICC prescribes, especially in the limited over games, where fielders are much more in action than the longest format. Taking breaks between overs is time-consuming. Maybe, they could keep a sachet or bottle in their pocket.
General hygiene practices also apply, like “coughing or sneezing into your bent elbow, no sharing of water bottles and towels, and no shared use of equipment, unless it’s an indispensable part of the protocol. Also, players, as much as possible, should be encouraged to adopt a ‘ready to train’ approach where possible, which implies coming to training prepared without the need to use any communal facilities such as changing rooms or showering facilities. Also, the venue should have additional changing room facilities to allow for social distancing. There should also be no bed linen in treatment rooms.
If sports bodies across the world are building bio-secure stadiums, the ICC insists on appointing a medical advisor or biosafety official, whose task is to keep a tab on the bio-security of a venue as well as players. He will also be responsible for implementing government regulations, as well as assisting “with planning for a safe return to training and competition.”
Teams are advised pre-match 14-day isolation camps, where their health, risk factors and temperature will be continuously monitored. In this regard, an appropriate testing plan during training and competition will be chalked out to guarantee that the team members and support staff are uninfected. Depending on cost, speed, accuracy, and availability, frequent COVID-19 tests too could be conducted on the players. Hosts should facilitate speedy consultations and tests to minimise waiting time. In short, there could be an increased presence of medical staff in the stadium as well as when a team travels.
As much as they could, the players should travel in sanitised vehicles, hopping from one safety-bubble to the other. If they are travelling abroad, they should consider using chartered flights and regulate seat spacing inside the flights. Besides, they should undergo mandatory quarantine after landing in a new country as well after returning home. If the stadium doesn’t have inbuilt hotel/lodging facilities, they should be a dedicated hotel floor and staff. Rooms shouldn’t be shared either. Moreover, adequate arrangements should be in place if a team member tests positive.
Before allotting a venue or a training facility, an assessment should be made on the extent of the virus spread in the particular community and whether the community has the facilities to deal with it.
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