Ashley Giles has said England players have “no excuses” not to stay fit during lockdown but that their need for four weeks of warm-up cricket – including possible inter-squad matches – means staging home internationals before July is unlikely.
England’s Test team were due to begin a summer of four touring sides against West Indies on 4 June but with the season suspended until 28 May – and few expecting a full resumption after this date – the process of moving the biggest fixtures back to August and September is under way.
A number of schedules are being looked at, each shaped by when the government allows sporting events to resume, and cricket will begin behind closed doors. Giles, the England team director, believes his players will be ready for action despite the uncertainty and being restricted to only one trip out per day for exercise.
“We have to hang on to the hopewe will get out there and we will play,” Giles said. “It’s looking less and less likely that we’re going to be out there in June so we have to look at alternatives.
“The one thing I ask of the players is there is no real excuse why you can’t keep yourself fit during this period. You could be jumping up and down in your front room, you can still go for a jog, you can use your home equipment – there’s a range of stuff so that our players are ready when we get that green light.”
England’s medical team have told Giles four to eight weeks of conditioning are still required before a player can go from lockdown to playing international cricket. The catch here is what form the domestic game takes on resumption, with priority given to the T20 Blast and uncertainty over the County Championship.
It means England’s red-ball cricketers may be forced to stage inter-squad matches to tune up, something Australia claimed to benefit from last year when they played among themselves in Southampton before an Ashes series they went on to draw.
Giles said: “I think that would be a decent way around a problem if we weren’t playing cricket more broadly. All 18 county grounds are still up and running and their ground staff are in preparing pitches. We will do whatever we can, as long as our people are safe, to play cricket.”
Among the possible scenarios for a truncated season, given the West Indies tour is followed by visits from Australia, Pakistan and Ireland, is the prospect of England’s Test and one-day international teams playing concurrently. Giles said they must be amenable to this, even if he ruled out such matches occurring on the same day.
With a World Test Championship under way but England’s white-ball side trying to tune up for a possible T20 World Cup in October, the selectors may face a balancing act. Giles hinted at Tests taking priority but there is a chance multi-format players may feature in both, depending on the workload.
Giles said: “By no means would [two teams playing concurrently] be ideal but this goes far beyond that. There is bigger picture stuff here. Apart from a health crisis, internally part of our role is to keep business going and keep the lights on. We take that very seriously. I don’t think anything is off the table. If we have to do it – we will.”
On the subject of England’s centrally contracted players donating £500,000 to the coffers and good causes – a precursor to the wider county game accepting pay cuts and use of the government furlough scheme in places – Giles said: “I’m very proud of our players, full stop. I think they are fantastic role models and what they’ve done in terms of contribution was strong. It’s important from a number of different aspects.
“There are real concerns around the finances of the game but more than that [it shows] unity across the game. They are well connected with what’s going on in the wider society. [And] I think they are very aware as well that this is a first measure. We all might need to do more. We don’t know how far this will drag on.”