Joe Root says England are ready to go into isolation to save this summer’s Test series against the West Indies and Pakistan. That could mean the Test captain also missing the birth of his second child but he is ready to make that sacrifice for a return to live international cricket.
With sport tentatively discussing a way back, England cricketers learned this week that a squad of up to 30 players could be chosen for a run of six Tests at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford from 8 July.
“I’m optimistic about it‚” Root told Sky Sports. “It would be a real shame if doesn’t happen. The public are desperate for some live sport and the guys are missing it.”
Root is concerned about safety for all those involved and is aware of the abnormal conditions that may apply.
“The players would be sectioned off in one part of the hotel and would be in isolation together. There would be no interaction with the media, the TV crews or even the opposition when off the pitch. We would have separate lunchrooms. It would have a different feel to it but it’s probably manageable. Hopefully that is the case.”
If both West Indies and Pakistan were prepared to buy into this scheme England’s players could be locked together for as long as nine weeks. Root, like one or two others in a likely squad who could extend to 25-30 players, is expecting a second child and would like to be at the birth but he acknowledges it would not be straightforward “to move in and out of the bubble”.
There is no guarantee that West Indies will accept the proposals, given how the UK is the country most afflicted by Covid-19 in Europe. “We have just tried to present the likely environment to see if it’s a possibility for them‚” Root said.
Root believes that the cricket should not be subjected to any unusual restrictions because of the pandemic: a wicketkeeper standing up and a crowded slip cordon, say, would have to be permitted. “If the game itself is to be compromised, then we shouldn’t be going ahead,” he said.
The overriding impression is that the England players are keen on playing and this was also reflected by Mark Wood. Being locked away for two months in hotels in Southampton and Manchester overlooking a cricket ground may not be the ultimate sacrifice but Wood said: “It would be very hard but as long as the environment is safe, my family are safe and everybody else there is safe then I’d be willing to do it.
“Being away on tour for long periods you get used to it. I think everybody would be willing to come back and play some cricket. We’re desperate to get going.”
Wood has maintained his fitness levels. “I’ve got a bike in the house, I’ve been doing some running and I have weights in the garage. I’ve been trying to tick over and to strengthen the area in my side – I hope the time off has helped that – and then it’s a little bit of buildup back into bowling.
“ I’m not saying I’m a Jimmy Anderson, who gets into his groove nice and easy and seems just to be at the top of his game like a magician. He seems to just rock up and hits the top of off stump.”
Wood wants to resume being the “smiling assassin”, a tag encouraged by England’s coach, Chris Silverwood. He would certainly not expect to play every game. A rotation policy for the pacemen, so often discussed, would be implemented.
Undoubtedly his effervescent personality would be invaluable in what may become a two-month lockdown for England’s players.
“All the communication [with the ECB via Ashley Giles and their chief medical officer, Nick Pierce] has been really good,” Wood said. “I don’t feel like I’m under any pressure to play and I don’t get that feeling from the others.”
However as Root noted: “There are so many moving parts in all this.” As far as the West Indies series is concerned these include nine governments, one in the UK and eight in the Caribbean, who may have more important agendas to pursue.