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England’s training stint at The Ageas Bowl will be ‘no holiday camp’ says Ashley Giles | Cricket News

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“We are going to have to find opportunities to get guys out of the environment and back home but it is important that if they are coming back, that when they leave they are going to a safe environment”

Last Updated: 23/06/20 3:32pm

Ben Stokes and Joe Root will be part of England's 30-man red-ball training group at The Ageas Bowl

Ben Stokes and Joe Root will be part of England’s 30-man red-ball training group at The Ageas Bowl

England’s return to group training at The Ageas Bowl will be “no holiday camp” as they adhere to strict protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic, says Ashley Giles.

A 30-man party has assembled at the Southampton venue, where they will live on-site and prepare ahead of the behind-closed-doors #raisethebat Test series against West Indies in July, live on Sky Sports Cricket.

Giles, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, says guidelines for the players will be stringent despite lockdown measures beginning to ease across the country.

We have all spent three months-plus in lockdown and I know personally that packing and leaving home feels quite strange. I guess when we get closer to playing cricket, we will all be fine.

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Ashley Giles

“There could be opportunities for guys to play golf on the course next door but apart from that, there are two sessions of cricket a day, so there is going to be a lot of work,” Giles told reporters on a conference call, with England’s players due to train in split groups from Thursday.

“Inside, social distancing, wearing of masks, and probably spending a lot of time on your own isn’t a lot of fun and it is a bit of a culture shock. It will be weird – anyone who thinks this is going to be a holiday camp is going to be seriously mistaken.

“It is about removing as much risk as you can and it is down to all of us to police it. We have been in constant dialogue with the players and they are all very aware of the seriousness of the situation.

“People are going to make mistakes, we all are, but for the sake of everyone’s safety and the cricket, we need to operate within these protocols as much as we can.”

Giles confirmed England are hoping to allow players to leave and re-enter the team “bubble” during the series, including captain Joe Root, whose wife Carrie is due to give birth to their second child in early July.

Pubs and cinemas are among the establishments set to reopen from July 4 and Giles hopes players operate “sensibly” in the outside world so as to not put the Test series in jeopardy.

The thing we have talked about consistently over the last few weeks is the bridging – we are obviously keen to get Joe back into the environment after the baby is born. At any time, it’s about moving people from a safe environment to a safe environment. We need to be careful as we can.

Ashley Giles on players moving in and out of the bubble

“We are going to have to find opportunities to get guys out of the environment and back home but it is important that if they are coming back, that when they leave they are going to a safe environment,” said former England spinner Giles.

“We haven’t talked about banning players [from pubs and restaurants] but we would ask them to be sensible, which they have been throughout this whole process.

“They need to continue that because if you come back into the environment and you haven’t been adhering to the guidelines, then you put everyone else and the series at risk.

“We could have a very secure bubble, yet the rest of the world is operating at a new normal in terms of going to pubs and restaurants, but our main responsibility is to get this series on the road and keep everyone safe.

“Especially the West Indies team, who have done so much to come here. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

West Indies are currently amid an internal warm-up game at Emirates Old Trafford

West Indies are currently amid an internal warm-up game at Emirates Old Trafford

England’s sole warm-up game before the three-Test series – which has been named #raisethebat as a tribute to key workers who have helped combat the COVID-19 pandemic – will be a three-day intra-team game from July 1, after which a Test squad will be named.

Giles admits that clash could lack “intensity” but believes players will have little trouble getting up for the series itself, despite the fact no fans will be in attendance at either The Ageas Bowl or Emirates Old Trafford, which is the venue for the second and third Tests.

“It will be very difficult to replicate that same intensity – even when you go into a Test match and there are no crowds, it is going to be very challenging,” he said.

“But it’s the same for both sides and there is a bigger picture in place than perfect scenarios which is the business of cricket. It’s very important to everyone that we get back playing Test cricket.

0:33
England’s strength and conditioning coach Rob Ahmun is confident James Anderson will be fit for the upcoming Test series against the West Indies and says the seam bowler is still managing to improve his fitness at the age of 37

England’s strength and conditioning coach Rob Ahmun is confident James Anderson will be fit for the upcoming Test series against the West Indies and says the seam bowler is still managing to improve his fitness at the age of 37

“The players I have spoken to are keen as mustard to get on with it. There is definitely some nervousness about the current situation but they are cricketers and are dying to play some cricket.

“When it comes down to it and someone is trying to knock your head off at 85mph an hour, you will find a way to get your intensity up pretty quickly.”

0:34
West Indies pace bowler Kemar Roach has a high regard for his England counterpart Jofra Archer but says the upcoming Test series is all about winning and playing hard cricket

West Indies pace bowler Kemar Roach has a high regard for his England counterpart Jofra Archer but says the upcoming Test series is all about winning and playing hard cricket

Giles said the ECB would be fully behind England’s players if they opted to take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement: “[Racism] is clearly a very serious issue right now. We need to show unity with West Indies and the world – whatever the team decide to do, we will fully support.”

The 47-year-old also revealed he is “quietly confident” that Australia’s proposed white-ball tour in September will go ahead – and hopes an easing of restrictions could allow England players who have featured in Test matches earlier in the summer to figure in the limited-overs games as well.

“Australia have been one of our strongest partners for years and continue to be – it would be great to have them here,” added Giles, part of England’s attack when they won the 2005 Ashes.

“If you were an Australian cricketer or member of staff outwardly looking in, there would be some nervousness but we are doing everything we can to allay as many of those fears as we possibly can. September is a long way away and a lot could change in that time but we are quietly confident.

Australia are due to play three T20Is and as many ODIs in England in September

Australia are due to play three T20Is and as many ODIs in England in September

“If and when Australia do come over, our best players who play both codes will want to play against them as it’s the best battle. We hope [players could play in both formats] but that is a long way away.

“Up front, we know we are going to have to operate two separate bubbles but we hope there is a relaxation in the guidelines and that later in the summer we will be able to move more freely.

“If we can ease back from the highest protocol, great, but we are not planning for that at the moment.”

Watch England’s three-Test series at home to West Indies live in full on Sky Sports from July 8.





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