England’s cricketers will be encouraged to move away from referring to “the bubble” this summer amid concerns the term has developed negative connotations and is beginning to perpetuate the mental strain of life on the road.
International cricket has been played in biosecure environments ever since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year and though restrictions are being lifted across the UK, Joe Root’s Test team will still be limited to just grounds and hotels for the two-Test series against New Zealand that starts on 2 June.
While the set-ups for the matches at Lord’s and Edgabston will not be as draconian as last summer – England played exclusively at the Rose Bowl and Old Trafford and lived at the two on-site hotels – or the winter tours of Sri Lanka and India, the team will still be in a form of lockdown once they convene in London on 28 May.
Despite a two-month gap since the end of the India Test series – and the likely absence of players who took part in the recent Indian Premier League and are currently in quarantine – Chris Silverwood’s coaching staff and the squad will still be urged to start referring to the “team environment” instead of the “bubble”.
It is a small change but one that is hoped will help them collectively move on from a testing 12-month period that included the white-ball team pulling out of three ODIs in South Africa when panicked by an outbreak of Covid-19 in the team hotel and saw a psychologist taken on tour in the subcontinent.
England’s players will still be subject to regular Covid-19 testing and have been asked to limit their movements at home during the five-day period before they get together. The management hope to relax things further after England’s final lockdown restrictions are lifted on 21 June, albeit some caution will remain.
Ultimately Ashley Giles, the team director, and Silverwood, the head coach, want to get minds squarely back on cricket and the return of crowds – starting at 25% capacity for the first Test at Lord’s, with Edgbaston still to be confirmed – should help a sense of normality return.
The pair are also wary of life getting tougher again next winter, when the schedule features trips to Bangladesh and Pakistan, the T20 World Cup and the Ashes in Australia, and families may be unable to join the players on tour.
Talks with Cricket Australia are continuing as regards the latter – an acute issue given the tour straddles Christmas – while the fixtures for the five-Test series are due to be published next week.
Silverwood, due to name his squad for the New Zealand series on Tuesday, has also announced he will sit out the six ODIs against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in July for a break, with his assistants Paul Collingwood and Graham Thorpe taking charge.