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Cricket news - COVID-19 substitutes under ICC consideration

England's home Test series against West Indies is set to kick-off on July 8 in a bio-secure environment and without spectators at the Ageas Bowl

England's home Test series against West Indies is set to kick-off on July 8 in a bio-secure environment and without spectators at the Ageas Bowl

The ICC are considering allowing COVID-19 substitutes during England's Test series against West Indies, Steve Elworthy, the ECB's director of special projects, has confirmed.

Currently, substitutes are only allowed in Test cricket in the event a player suffers a concussion, when he can be replaced by a like-for-like player. Marnus Labuschange became Test cricket's first concussion substitute when he replaced Steve Smith in Australia's team during the Lord's Test last summer after Smith was hit by a Jofra Archer bouncer.

However, the ICC are now looking at whether to extend the scope of the measure to cover any player who develops symptoms of COVID-19 during a match. Although the ECB are finalising the medical protocols that would be followed in such a scenario, the player would be isolated immediately while tested and then removed from the rest of the game to isolate if they tested positive.

As a result, the potential impacts on the game could be significant, particularly if it occurred early in the game or if a number of players developed symptoms at the same time. There is also the unresolved question of whether players who had come into contact with someone showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as standing next to them in the slips, would also have to be removed from the match.

"COVID-replacements are certainly something that the ICC are discussing," Elworthy told Sky Sports' The Cricket Show. "I have seen communication about that and it's certainly something we hope would be allowed - specifically for Test matches, not necessarily ODIs or T20s.

"That replacement would have to be a 'like for like' player, if you will. Our on-site COVID medical practitioner and Public Health England would be informed immediately and that player would then be put into isolation for a period of time, based on government guidance and the medical overlay.

"With the testing protocols of getting those players into that [bio-secure] bubble first, you would hope that wouldn't be a scenario we'd have to deal with. But clearly it is something we are planning for."

The West Indies are set to arrive in the UK on Tuesday (June 9) ahead of the three Test series which begins on July 8, in a bio-secure environment, and without spectators, at the Ageas Bowl. The tourists, who have named a 25-man squad to cover for injuries, will face a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days once they arrive in England. They will be able to train at Old Trafford, the venue for the second and third Tests, during that time.

A large number of arrangements will be in place for the Test matches including mandatory testing of those inside the ground, strict social distancing and hygiene measures as well as segregation between different groups of people inside the venues. Cricket West Indies have been satisfied with the measures and the ECB hope to be able to convince the boards of Ireland, Pakistan and Australia so that matches against those countries can take place later in the year.

"It's an incredibly challenging but, at the same time, very rewarding project," Elworthy said. "What we are trying to achieve here is something that has never been done before. There has been a huge amount of work done.

"The West Indies are the first team to arrive here but, at the same time, we hope to have Australia, Pakistan and Ireland come this summer. We have been speaking to them, we've been in weekly communication with all of them but, in this particular case, more extensively with the West Indies because their Test matches are about five weeks away.

"We're in a really good place. We're gearing up for next Tuesday - the chartered flight is due to land - and then it's all systems go. We're very confident and comfortable with the fact we've got a plan in place to deliver these bi-secure matches behind closed doors - in the most safe and secure way."

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