After two months of COVID-19 enforced lockdown, a group of around 30 England men's players will resume the first phase of individual skills-based training over the next few weeks, with a number of bowlers having practice sessions from next Wednesday (May 20).
The group will include a mix of centrally contracted players and others invited from the counties, with the emphasis on the red-ball format. Ashley Giles, director of men's cricket, confirmed the group of 30 is not a formal England squad as such but rather a number of players who the ECB wants to return to training ahead of a potential resumption of international cricket later in the summer.
Giles, Mo Bobat, the ECB's performance director, and Chris Silverwood, head coach, chose the group and the individuals will be named in due course once they have all been contacted. Given Test matches against West Indies and Pakistan are the ECB's immediate focus, some of England's centrally contracted white ballplayers will not be included in this initial group.
After the bowlers have completed a two-week block, the batsmen and wicket-keepers will begin their training. Players will train individually on a staggered basis with a coach, a physio and a strength and conditioning coach where possible. The support staff will have a number of players to look after. ECB coaches and physios will be supplemented by a number of county staff which the ECB will fund.
At this stage, the ECB expects to use eleven venues across the country in total with seven of those being utilized from next week by the bowlers. The aim is for those involved to train as close as possible to where they live.
Strict social distancing measures will be in place for all sessions and players and support staff will have to arrive in the training kit ready to practice as dressing rooms will be closed. Each player and member of the support staff will have their temperature taken before they are allowed to train and will complete a questionnaire to highlight any symptoms. The physio will have to wear personal protective equipment, sourced and paid for by the ECB, to treat injuries.
The ECB is planning for two further phases of training, stepping up preparations as required, before a possible resumption of action in July against the West Indies. But Giles was keen to stress all training and playing scenarios would be led by government guidelines. "To be clear, we will only train and potentially play cricket behind closed doors if we know it is absolutely safe to do so and is fully supported by the government."
Plans are progressing on how Tests against West Indies and Pakistan can be played in bio-secure environments behind closed doors during July and August. In their preparations, the ECB is looking to cover a range of scenarios to cater to possible changes to government guidelines although there is a hope that there will be greater movement and flexibility in July and August than there is now.