Coronavirus tests for players before cricket returns ideal - Chris Woakes

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
Side on shot of Chris Woakes in England Test kit and cap, holding the ball up in front of his mouth
If cricket returns, new hygiene measures may restrict how players can shine the ball

England fast bowler Chris Woakes says players would ideally be tested for coronavirus before returning to action.

The England and Wales Cricket Board is due to meet on Thursday and is set to extend the shutdown past the current date of 28 May, as well as potentially agreeing a new summer schedule.

"We don't know what people are going to have to do before they go back to playing sport," said Woakes.

"In a dream world, everyone would be tested and know whether they had it."

The 31-year-old, who was part of the team that won the World Cup in 2019, added: "In the real world, these tests aren't easy to come by.

"As sportspeople, we can't demand those sorts of things because there are people who need them a lot more than we do."

The ECB will consider a range of scenarios for playing as much cricket as possible this summer, including prioritising England's international fixtures, the domestic short-form competitions and support of the women's game.

Some of the options include the postponement of The Hundred, playing England's Test and limited-overs series at the same time and holding matches behind closed doors.

While Woakes said he would be happy to play matches without fans in attendance, former India batsman Yuvraj Singh said playing in an empty stadium would be "demotivating".

Speaking to the Doosra podcast, Yuvraj said: "You play in front of big crowds and that motivates you. When you're walking to the park the people chant your name - it gets the adrenaline going.

"Unfortunately that's not going to be there. Without the crowds it won't be the same."

The Indian Premier League, cricket's biggest domestic competition, is among the tournaments to have been postponed this year, with Yuvraj stating it will be difficult to hold a rescheduled IPL behind closed doors.

"In England it might be manageable but our grounds are not nicely set up for that kind of social distancing," said the 38-year-old, who played more than 400 internationals for India. "We have to change infrastructure around our stadiums to make sure people are safe."

He also believes players will need strong assurances the threat of coronavirus has diminished before they are happy to take the field.

"It has to die down 90% or 95% for players to come back because if it keeps on increasing, players will be scared to go on the field and be in the dressing rooms," Yuvraj added.

"Already as a player, you're under a lot of pressure.

"While you're batting, and wearing sweaty gloves, you might get hungry and you want to eat a banana.

"But another guy is holding the banana and then you'll be like, 'I don't want to eat that banana'.

"You don't want those questions in your head when you're playing professional sport."

Along with the ECB, the International Cricket Council will also host a meeting of chief executives on Thursday.

No decisions on international competitions like the men's Twenty20 World Cup or the World Test Championship are expected yet, with the world governing body believing it has time to mull its options.

There are a range of scenarios for the T20 World Cup, due to be played in Australia in October and November.

That tournament is more likely to be postponed rather than cancelled, leading to the possibility of two competitions in 2021, with another T20 World Cup scheduled to take place in India.

However, the latter could be delayed until 2022, especially after a number of its qualifying events this year have been called off.

Whenever cricket does return, there is a debate over whether teams will be able to continue to shine the ball using saliva.

If that practice is not permitted, Woakes believes there are alternatives.

"I try and use as much sweat as possible rather than putting my hands into my mouth, just from a normal hygiene point of view," he said.

"I suppose that's the best way to shine the ball - get the wetness from sweat - but it could potentially change the way things work with the ball."

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