The England and Wales Cricket Board is confident the recreational season can begin next month despite Boris Johnson’s claim that the ball is a “natural vector” of Covid-19.
On the day it was announced that pubs, restaurants and cinemas can open from 4 July, the prime minister was asked in the House of Commons whether club cricket – a pastime that seems a natural fit for a degree of physical distancing – can also resume.
In reply, Johnson said: “The problem with cricket as everybody understands, that the ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially, at any rate and we’ve been round it many times with our scientific friends.
“At the moment we’re still working on ways to make cricket more covid-secure, but we can’t change the guidance yet.”
This statement surprised the ECB, which had been in discussions with the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport over a resumption, starting with reduced numbers and a form of adapted play to mitigate the risk of transmission.
The governing body remains undeterred, however, and is now hoping to demonstrate to the DCMS that the issue of the ball, as outlined by the prime minister, will be addressed when it produces safety guidelines.
An ECB spokesperson said: “We believe that cricket is a non-contact sport, with very low risks of exposure, and that it can be played as safely as many other activities being currently permitted.
“It is our strong desire to work with government to see the return of recreational cricket on or around 4 July, as they continue to lift other restrictions more broadly across society.
“We are heartened that the government has already permitted the return of other ball sports, including tennis and basketball, and we are sure that our interpretation of the risks around ball transmission is consistent with these other games.
“We can confirm that any guidance we share with the game will include directions on how to mitigate any risk from handling the ball as we continue to prioritise the health and safety of the cricket family in all our decision-making.’’
International cricket is due to resume behind closed doors with a three-Test series between England and West Indies next month, with the county game eyeing an August start.
Applying saliva to the ball in order to get it to swing has been temporarily outlawed by the International Cricket Council, although the global body has said that, according to medical advice, sweat poses minimal risk.