THE boss of English cricket has revealed how six Test matches could still be staged this summer behind closed doors.
The pro game was yesterday postponed until at least July 1 but ECB chief executive Tom Harrison still hopes England’s fixtures can all be played.
That means six Tests, six one-dayers and six T20s against West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Ireland between July and the end of September.
The launch of the controversial new Hundred competition looks set to be postponed until 2021 but the management board are meeting next week to decide its fate.
The ECB are expecting initially to play matches behind closed doors, which involves testing and isolating around 300 players, staff and broadcasters for weeks.
A five-day Test presents more problems compared, say, to a 90-minute football match.
These are the main issues confronting cricket following a video conference call between the ECB management board on Thursday…
The ECB want to play all 18 scheduled international fixtures although most — and probably all — would be behind closed doors.
Harrison said: “We want to play three Tests against West Indies and three against Pakistan and we’ve developed a schedule that gives us the ability to do that with a following wind.
“People would also love to see the Aussies here playing white-ball cricket against our World Cup-winning team. That would be brilliant.”
England could be offered the chance to play home matches later in the year in the UAE, where the coronavirus crisis is less acute.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Segregation would be vital inside a ‘bio-secure’ environment. So grounds would be divided into zones, with areas strictly no-go for some personnel.
This would apply to the corridors of hotels on site at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and Old Trafford. There would be extensive testing for Covid-19.
Harrison added: “We’re starting to get comfortable with the idea that there won’t be crowds this summer. Safety is our No 1 priority.
“These are just plans at the moment and we’re working with the Government.
“I’m writing weekly to players and I’ve told them any cricket this summer will look and feel very different to anything they’ve played before.”
This year’s launch is likely to be scrapped next week but Harrison insists the controversial tournament will be played in 2021.
He said: “If anything, this crisis makes the case for the Hundred stronger. It will generate commercial value and help broaden the audience.
“There will be a huge clamour for sport coming out of this crisis.
“So I don’t think this dilutes the case for the Hundred, it absolutely accelerates it.”
Cricket faces losses of £300million if the season is wiped out so the ECB is in damage-limitation mode.
Harrison admitted: “There will be a very large impact on ECB revenue. Even if we deliver every game, the impact will still be significant and long-term.”
Some counties fear for their futures but all 18 are expected to survive.
The first nine rounds of the Championship have gone but some red-ball cricket is planned.
The T20 Blast, due to start at the end of May, will be pushed back.