DUBAI-The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will start taking baby steps towards nurturing their national squad members back into shape after the lockdown - starting with their bowlers.

The ECB has announced a phased plan late last week for the men’s national team and followed it up with a blueprint for the counties and clubs - adhering to the safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff as set out by the UK government’s elite sport return-to-training guidance. All cricket in England, as with the rest of the cricketing and sporting world, had come to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus pandemic since mid-March.

While the ECB decided to postpone their new property ‘The Hundred’ to next year, they are now exploring the possibility of hosting the West Indies for a three-Test series in July. Media reports in the UK suggest that the board will, however, face a prohibitive bill to ensure the series with the need to charter private flights for the tourists and cover the cost of up to 15 additional squad players.

The touring West Indies will need a squad of 25-30 players a planned seven-week trip to England, including four weeks of quarantine and training before the first Test on July 8. After a two-week training period, once the England bowlers have reached their desired loading efforts, dedicated batsmen and wicketkeepers will start their respective training programmes on an individual basis. The protocols include directives that players will train individually on a staggered basis with a coach, physio and where possible, a strength and conditioning coach in attendance. Each individual will observe strict social-distancing, hygiene and temperature testing protocols.

Announcing the plan, Ashley Giles, Managing Director - England Men’s Cricket, said: “These are the first steps for players’ return to training ahead of international cricket potentially resuming later this summer. The safety of players, staff and our community is our first priority throughout this protocol. We are committed to adhering to public health guidelines and Government directives intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “To be clear, we will only train and potentially play cricket behind closed doors if we know it is absolutely safe to do so and is fully supported by the government.

“We are in constant dialogue with players, coaches and counties to determine what is possible during this period and what facilities will be available to us. We are thankful that we have a united front across all of cricket’s stakeholders to prepare the players in a safe and secure environment.”