Ben Stokes accepts England’s players may have to spend more time in biosecure bubbles in the coming weeks, but insists it would be “pretty devastating” if they were not able to play in the Hundred.
An upsurge in Covid-19 cases in the UK in recent days has already created a certain amount of chaos in cricket. England had to name an entirely new ODI squad after an outbreak among the original selections, while an LV= Insurance County Championship match between Derbyshire and Essex was abandoned on Monday morning after a Derbyshire player tested positive for the virus. Kent were also obliged to go into a Championship game with something approaching a 2nd-team XI after a similar incident.
As a result, there is increasing speculation that England’s Test players could be taken into a bubble ahead of the five-match series against India that starts on August 4 and ends in mid-September.
For an England squad that have spent much of the last year in bubbles, this would be unwelcome news. But the prospect – and the potential financial cost – of losing a Test or two is likely to focus the minds at the ECB, with the board still reeling from the losses incurred in 2020.
“All these things are in place to make sure we’re as safe as possible,” Stokes said. “I have no doubt things have had to go back to the drawing board. But everything is in place to ensure the safety of players and backroom staff.
“Nothing is set in stone for the India series, but it will be done in the right way. You have to make sacrifices, but at the same time, you have to consider welfare as well. Bubble life is very tough.
“Just going from hotel to cricket ground can get to you. So, there is a lot to think about in terms of keeping everyone safe and making sure being looked after from the mental health side of things. Because bubbles are very tough.”
But while Stokes is clearly prepared to put-up with further time in a bubble, he said he would be hugely frustrated to miss out on playing in the Hundred.
Current regulations state that anyone deemed a close contact of a positive case must self-isolate for 10 days. That means there is a possibility that England’s Test players could be taken out of the Hundred as early as July 24 to ensure that any period of isolation does not eat into the training time ahead of the first Test. With the men’s Hundred competition only starting on July 22, that could limit the involvement of players such as Stokes and Joe Root to only one game.
“It would be very frustrating to not be able to participate in the Hundred,” Stokes said. “It’s a massive event for England and we want to be part of it. We know how big a role players have in making a franchise competition big and if the Test players were unable to play in it because of Covid that would be pretty devastating.”
An ECB spokesperson said that, given the fast-evolving situation, they were not able to confirm or deny the plans for the Test players’ involvement in the Hundred, but suggested that, as things stand, they were expecting them to be involved.