Cricket is all set to celebrate its biggest day in COVID-19 era. The Aegis Bowl and July 8 will we embossed in the history of world cricket for more than one reason. First and foremost for the first international cricket match during the period COVID-19 pandemic. And then, for many firsts in the history of the gentlemen’s game.
The history, not the one the sports lovers and historians would have loved, will be created when Jason Holder and Ben Stokes lead their respective teams the West Indies and England at the Aegis Bowl in Southampton for the 3:30 pm start of the first Test after the novel coronavirus global spread.
Despite the traditional white flannels, the red cherry, the green oval and 22 men engaged to dominate the battle across 21-yard strip, the first Test between England and the West Indies will set many firsts in the 133-year-old history of Test match cricket. Many of them will require players to make adjustments to the way they had played their cricket.
The strict majors to protect the players from the possible COVID-19 will also pose some challenges.
NO SALIVA ON THE BALL
They say old habits die hard. But the bowlers will have to get rid of the inherent habit of applying saliva to the ball for maintaining shine and generating swing. This may lead to the bowlers’ nightmare as the balls will be travelling in the same trajectory with little swing to flummox the willowers.
Players may face ban and teams penalty for breaching this rule. ICC has said that the preventive measures will not be implemented strictly in the initial period. The umpires will serve warning to the team for violations.
Two warnings would lead to a penalty of five runs being added to the score of the batting side. There is also a provision to suspend the bowlers for repeated offence. The players will be relying on sweat to maintain the shine on the ball. However, it feared that the bowlers will have to sweat harder to deal with the impact of this rule.
In cricket substitutions hitherto were permitted for fielding in the event of an injury. The batters were allowed a runner, but that rule was abolished in 2011. And a replacement in the extreme case of concussions to a player.
In this new era of cricket, a replacement is permitted if a player shows COVID-19 infection symptoms during the Test. The rule is an extension of “concussion replacements”. But it will have to be a like-for-like swap – a fast bowler for fast bowler, a spinner for a spinner, an all-rounder for an all-rounder and a batter for a batter.
Considering the global travel restrictions, COVID-19 standard operating systems in place and logistics issues, only the umpires from the host nation will officiate during the match. It will not just be the first time in almost two decades that an Englishman will officiate during a Test match in England, but all the five men – Richard Illingworth, Richard Kettleborough, Michael Gough, Alex Wharf and David Millns – are Britishers.
EXTRA DRS REVIEW PER INNINGS
In a bid to avoid any controversy and offering the teams a fair deal of right decisions, since there will be lesser experienced umpires, the ICC has allowed the teams an additional review for every innings.
The teams will have will have three unsuccessful DRS reviews per Test innings instead of the traditional two. For the limited overs internationals, the number for unsuccessful review is upped from one to two.
SPONSORS’ LOGO ON TEAM JERSEYS
As COVID-19 has severely dented the revenues of cricket boards, ICC has come up with an additional revenue proposition. The boards will have the liberty to put their team sponsors’ logo on the chest of their players’ jerseys and jumpers. This will be a first for Test match cricket even though the practice is in place for limited overs games.
Strict bio-secure measures will see the match progressing behind closed doors. The stands will be empty. The teams and officials at Southampton and Manchester will be staying at the on-site hotels.
There will be daily screening and regular testing of all involved with the game for COVID-19 infection. Designated zones in the stadium would separate the teams, match officials, ground staff and the media. There will be very restricted movement between the designated zones.
The players will have to deal with the challenge of the absence of fans. England still attracts the best crowds in the world for Test match cricket. The ambience will be created artificially by a public address announcer and the LIVE television broadcast will have insertions of the hum of the Lord’s crowd.
ROUTING STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
England: Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Dominic Bess, James Bracey, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Lewis Gregory, Keaton Jennings, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Amar Virdi, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich (wk), Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.
Schedule: 1st Test (July 8-12) – Southampton; 2nd Test (July 16-20) – Manchester; 3rd Test (July 24-28) – Manchester.
Start time: All matches start at 3:30 pm (IST).
Live Telecast: India and its sub-continents on Sony Network.
England: Sky Sports
Live Streaming: Sony’s OTT platform SonyLiv.