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ECB to relax bio-secure bubble protocols for Test matches next year

ECB admit bio-secure bubble protocols for Test matches could be relaxed next year to protect the mental health of England stars

  • The ECB are now planning for another summer with the coronavirus pandemic
  • To ease the strain on players mental health, biosecure bubbles may be relaxed
  • Jofra Archer recently expressed his reluctance to play due to hotel quarantining
  • However, the ECB are working on plans to use 10 international venues in 2021 

England’s cricketers could be spared the ordeal of months-long biosecure bubbles next season because of concerns over their mental health.

The ECB are already planning for a second summer of living with the coronavirus pandemic, which could mean a further £100m hit to the game’s finances. And chief executive Tom Harrison admitted: ‘It could easily be worse than that.’

But the administrators are determined to ease the strain on the players – with fast bowler Jofra Archer recently expressing reluctance to go to this winter’s Big Bash League in Australia because of the prospect of another hotel quarantine.

England’s cricketers could be spared from using biosecure bubbles due to mental health

‘We need to understand what wellbeing within these environments looks like,’ said Professor Nick Peirce, the ECB’s chief medical officer. ‘There’s no chance of a five-Test India series next summer with everybody being locked in for that whole time. We saw there was a ceiling probably of three to four weeks, and you need time out.

‘We need to understand how to bridge out – or if we even need to have these environments. If we can get away from having these bubble environments, we really would. That’s how most of us see the future.’

Assuming the pandemic has not disappeared by the time the next English season starts in April, one possibility will be to relax biosecure protocols by allowing players to stay at off-site hotels.

That arrangement is currently in place at the IPL in the United Arab Emirates, and the ECB privately acknowledge it will be hard to persuade the game’s stars to return to the strict arrangements that helped make a success of the visits of West Indies (men and women), Ireland, Pakistan and Australia.

Jofra Archer recently expressed his reluctance to play in Australia due to hotel quarantining

Although, Steve Elworthy is working on plans to use up to 10 international venues in 2021

The move would also cut costs, with almost £1m spent on Covid-19 tests alone this year.

Though the ECB remain wary of jeopardising a series as lucrative as the visit of India, Sportsmail understands that Steve Elworthy, the board’s highly regarded director of events, is already working on plans to use up to 10 international venues in 2021.

This summer, only Southampton’s Ageas Bowl and Manchester’s Emirates Old Trafford hosted men’s international matches, while Derby’s Incora County Ground staged the women’s five-match T20 series against West Indies.

Meanwhile, England’s hopes of fulfilling their postponed two-Test series in Sri Lanka in January could be scuppered by the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to waive visa requirements for visiting athletes – the reason behind the recent cancellation of a tour there by the Bangladesh team.

The ECB still intend to send their white-ball squads to South Africa in November, where they hope to use Cape Town as a base. But doubt remains over the proposed trip to India in February and March, because of the country’s high prevalence of Covid cases.

The UAE could yet host those matches – comprising five Tests, and three one-day and T20 internationals – but Harrison said: ‘We will not sign off on plans we’re not comfortable with in terms of our No 1 priority, which is the health and wellbeing of players and staff on those tours.’

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