Ashley Giles admits summer of cricket was ‘on a knife edge’ after seven positive Covid-19 cases forced drastic change in England one-day squad in ‘mad 24 hours’… while ECB managing director insists NOBODY broke protocols
- England had to change their whole white-ball squad after a Covid outbreak
- Virus swept through what Ashley Giles described as a ‘safe team environment’
- The ECB are dependent on summer Tests and events going ahead for revenue
- Giles says he is ‘very confident’ that no Covid bubble rules were broken
Ashley Giles admitted cricket was on a ‘knife edge’ after England’s plans for their one-day series against Pakistan were thrown into disarray by seven positive Covid tests.
England had to replace their whole squad and coaching staff on Tuesday for three 50-over matches, starting in Cardiff on Thursday, when the virus swept through what managing director Giles insisted was a ‘safe team environment.’
And it left England anxiously re-assessing their Covid protocols to try to ensure the show goes on for the rest of a summer when cricket will be financially dependent on the success of their five-Test series against India and the new Hundred competition.
England’s plans for their one-day series against Pakistan were thrown into disarray on Tuesday
Ashley Giles (L) says the summer of cricket was on a ‘knife-edge’ – Ben Stokes (R) will captain the new white-ball squad
‘It’s been a mad 24 hours,’ said Giles after naming a ‘B’ squad that included nine uncapped players. ‘We had two positive lateral flow tests among the management on Monday morning so took all the right precautions and isolated everyone.
‘But then we got the news we feared in the evening that it had spread within the group. Given the size of the outbreak the only thing we could do was isolate everyone and move on with a new squad. The last 12 hours have been a bit of a blur.’
Three unidentified players and four members of a management team that was meant to be led by assistant coach Paul Collingwood for the next three matches tested positive. But Giles insisted nobody broke Covid protocols.
‘I don’t believe we have gambled at all,’ said the former England spinner. ‘No-one is more aware of the risks than us. As well as looking after our people we’re trying to protect revenues for the whole game. That’s the knife edge we’re living on and it can be a really difficult balance to strike.
‘Our protocols have been very similar to last year when we lived in bio-secure conditions. This time we have tried to live in safe environments but we have been travelling around the country and haven’t had sole use of hotels. We have been sharing certain areas but not key ones like where we eat.
All change for England
THE OLD SQUAD
Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, captain), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Tom Banton (Somerset), Sam Billings (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Tom Curran (Surrey), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), George Garton (Sussex), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), David Willey (Yorkshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).
THE NEW SQUAD
Ben Stokes (Durham, captain), Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire), Danny Briggs (Warwickshire), Brydon Carse (Durham), Zak Crawley (Kent), Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire), Lewis Gregory (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Will Jacks (Surrey), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire), David Payne (Gloucestershire), Phil Salt (Sussex), John Simpson (Middlesex), James Vince (Hampshire)
‘We always hoped we would be able to move with society when things started opening up. That would have meant more access to families, eating outside and freedoms everyone else are taking for granted right now. We were still hoping that would be the case as the summer went on. But then this happens.
‘I am very confident no-one has broken any rules but given this (Delta) variant is more infectious the risk of the group being infected has clearly gone up.’
Pakistan on Tuesday released a statement saying they had been given assurances that it was safe for them to continue their tour while Giles is confident India, who are already in the country, will be happy to fulfil the Test series, starting on August 4.
But it did not go unnoticed that England are insisting on the show going on now while they were quick to quit their tour of South Africa in December and left three matches unplayed when their bio-secure bubble was breached.
England left three matches in South Africa unplayed in the winter due to a bubble breach
Giles insists the cases are very different. ‘I don’t want to drag up too much history but at that time we were living in an environment where Covid had got in,’ he said.
‘This time we have identified the issue, closed it down and are continuing cricket as best we can. The way to do that is with new people and it’s the only thing we can do.’
Now a new squad of old and new faces, most plucked from County Championship matches around the country, will descend on Cardiff, with Giles admitting he won’t sleep until they have all tested negative and been given the all-clear to play tomorrow.
Chris Silverwood, meanwhile, has cut short his holiday to regain the coaching reins and will be assisted by Essex coach Anthony McGrath along with other specialist coaches in Alan Richardson, Jonathan Trott and Jeetan Patel.
‘This is another challenge,’ said Giles. ‘We are still living in the unknown in so many ways. That’s one of the reasons why we have such a large group of players. We are clearly hoping now that we just don’t have any more issues tomorrow morning.’
England head coach Chris Silverwood (L) has cut short his holiday to take charge of the team
Most of the England players have had one dose of vaccine – the bulk of the affected players and management are asymptomatic while a couple have mild flu-type symptoms – and the priority for Giles now is for them all to be double jabbed.
And that, along with a re-tightening of existing regulations, is the way cricket intends to keep the virus at bay for the rest of the summer and beyond.
‘Can we get any tighter?’ added Giles. ‘We’re still going to be in shared spaces in hotels so there’s still risk but we will just have to be all over our protocols. I don’t think we’ve been slack at all but we will just have to reinforce what we have been doing and tighten up the environment as much as we can.’
England vs Pakistan fixtures
Thursday – Match one (Cardiff)
Saturday – Match two (Lord’s)
July 13 – Match three (Edgbaston)
July 16 – Match one (Trent Bridge)
July 18 – Match two (Headingley)
July 20 – Match three (Old Trafford)