Joe Root has outlined how the decision to abandon England’s tour of Sri Lanka was driven more by the unsettling effect of the coronavirus pandemic on his squad than the advice of the experts.
As sporting events around the globe were cancelled in swift succession on Friday, cricket fell into line to the relief of the England players. The immediate risk may have been minimal since there have just been three confirmed cases in Sri Lanka, though that risk may have escalated with the arrival of 3,000 English fans, heading for Galle for the first Test, which was scheduled to start on Thursday.
Root was refreshingly candid when speaking to the PA news agency before his flight back to the UK. “There was an element of relief,” he said. “The right decision has been made. You could see looking at the players that their minds were elsewhere thinking about people back home. Now that we can go and look after families and be with loved ones that’s put a lot of guys at ease.
“Naturally there was a lot of talk in the dressing room and it got to a stage where it overshadowed the cricket. Looking at how quickly things have happened at home, you’re thinking about family and friends who might be a bit more vulnerable and that’s hard when you’re a long way away. It was clear it was getting in the way of performance and affecting the mental wellbeing of the guys.”
There were also concerns within the squad about the implications of testing positive and the subsequent necessity of being put into quarantine away from the team environment. The idea of being stranded a long way from home is currently unappealing to all travellers and England cricketers were no exception.
“There were a number of different scenarios we could have found ourselves in that were pretty scary to be honest,” Root said. “You think how things might have gone – being in isolation here, disconnected from the team, without the security we would usually have around us at the ground or the hotel. If one of the lads was to get it in these conditions, or a member of the public travelling, it could be quite a scary experience.”
So the team heads home after a bizarre few months. In South Africa the squad was hindered by a virulent bug at the start of the tour but in the end they prevailed. But there was no way this virus could be defeated.
Root has no better idea than anyone else when the team will reconvene. “We don’t know when we’ll play again. I suppose you can’t have mass gatherings so there won’t be many training camps. I’m sure over the coming weeks we’ll prepare and do everything we can to be as ready as possible but until we know more it’s just a case of common sense. Look after yourself, condition well and be ready to start.”