Southampton, July 7
International sport lastly returns to Britain on Wednesday when England performs the West Indies on this planet’s first cricket Test match for the reason that begin of March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s clear the match being staged on the Ageas Bowl in Southampton is about way more than simply cricket.
A easily run Test collection, performed in a strict remoted surroundings that includes repeated Covid-19 testing and social distancing, can lay the blueprint for future matches and excursions in cricket but in addition occasions in different sports activities concentrating on a resumption.
“If you get one thing wrong, it might blow this whole ‘getting sport back onto the radar’ further back,” England stand-in captain Ben Stokes mentioned on Tuesday in his eve-of-game information convention.
Stokes additionally spoke concerning the “responsibility on our shoulders” to ship a “massive occasion” for TV viewers who’ve been with out worldwide cricket for 4 months.
“I know everyone has been craving this from a player’s point of view,” he mentioned, “but also I think from a spectator’s and fan’s point of view”. And then there’s the message England and the West Indies gamers wish to ship about equality in sport and society typically within the wake of the Black Lives Matter motion.
A BLM emblem can be on the collar of the Test shirts worn by gamers from each groups and there’s set to be a “gesture” made by the groups earlier than the sport.
West Indies gamers have mentioned the motion is a supply of motivation on this tour.
“Not only has this been a period for us getting ready for a Test match,” Stokes mentioned, “it has additionally been nice for us to have academic chats as a group round this and it has been actually useful for lots of our members.
“I feel as a team we have an opportunity to send a real powerful message and I am really excited as an individual, and the team is really excited, that we are able to be a part of that.”
Cricket’s oldest format kicks off a really new period for the game. One the place there aren’t any spectators at matches, one-way methods inside venues to keep up distancing, twice-weekly testing for coronavirus, and gamers not allowed out of their inns.
Players from the 2 groups will come into vaguely shut contact with one another solely on the sphere of play.
TV viewers could have the selection of including a so-called “Lord’s hum” throughout protection, however there can be no synthetic crowd noise within the floor or music between overs, making certain an eerie silence as soon as the match begins apart from selective bulletins over the general public handle system about issues similar to milestones or bowling adjustments.
The massive screens across the venue will present key highlights, DRS and sponsor messages.
The West Indies squad has been right here since June 9 so that the gamers might first quarantine at Manchester’s Old Trafford floor after which practise there in lockdown circumstances. They had two intra-squad matches — England has had just one — earlier than the squad travelled to Southampton for the match.
“We’re about to show that other places can start putting things together,” West Indies coach Phil Simmons mentioned.
“The England and Wales Cricket Board have to be commended for all the work they have done to get the series on the road and let’s see what other countries take from it.” Simmons has needed to self-isolate in his lodge room for a interval after leaving camp to attend his father-in-law’s funeral final week.
England’s build-up has been interrupted, too, by captain Joe Root having to depart camp to be on the beginning of his second little one. He is not going to characteristic within the first of three Tests, which means Stokes has the captaincy for the primary time.
“I haven’t had much advice but there has been a lot of opinions flying around,” Stokes mentioned. “The best message that I have received was when I got my photos done in the blazer. Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said: ‘Do it your way.’”
The West Indies has not received a Test collection in England since 1988 however the group is the holder of the Wisden Trophy after a 2-1 victory within the Caribbean final yr.
The different two Tests happen in Manchester, beginning July 16 and 24. AP