Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 13 July 2020

Coronavirus: England captain Joe Root says players were too worried about family to play cricket

Tour of Sri Lanka was abandoned to allow team to return home

England captain Joe Root believes abandoning the tour of Sri Lanka was the only option after saying players could not focus on cricket due to fears over the coronavirus.

The two-match Test series was postponed on Friday, while the team were going through the motions of a warm-up game in Colombo, following talks between both boards.

Root revealed that the fast-moving nature of the pandemic had unsettled his squad, causing concerns over friends and relations back in the United Kingdom.

“There was an element of relief. The right decision has been made,” Root told Press Association.

“You could see looking at the players that their minds were elsewhere thinking about people back home. Now that we can go and look after families and be with loved ones that’s put a lot of guys at ease.

“Naturally there was a lot of talk in the dressing room and it got to a stage where it overshadowed the cricket. Looking at how quickly things have happened at home, you’re thinking about family and friends who might be a bit more vulnerable and that’s hard when you’re a long way away. It was clear it was getting in the way of performance and affecting the mental well-being of the guys.”

Sri Lanka has only recorded three cases of Covid-19 but there were fears that travelling England fans, thought to number around 3,000, could inadvertently bring the virus with them.

Should any England player or staff member have tested positive they would immediately have been removed from the carefully controlled team environment and turned over to the Sri Lankan government’s procedures.

It is understood England’s management team had been briefed on the quarantine arrangements and were concerned by them.

“There were a number of different scenarios we could have found ourselves in that were pretty scary to be honest,” Root said. “You think how things might have gone - being in isolation here, disconnected from the team, without the security we would usually have around us at the ground or the hotel. If one of the lads was to get it in these conditions, or a member of the public travelling, it could be quite a scary experience.”

Root does not know when he will see his teammates again after arrival in England, with the start of the county season in severe doubt and England’s first Test of the summer, against the West Indies on June 4, also in doubt.

The prospect of playing behind closed doors is likely to be discussed at some stage, a scenario he grudgingly accepts.

“It would be very strange if that was to happen but if these things have to happen so be it,” Root said. “We always get supported extremely well and that has played a big part in our results in recent years. They have a big impact on the way we play our cricket. We don’t know when we’ll play again. I suppose you can’t have mass gatherings so there won’t be many training camps. I’m sure over the coming weeks we’ll prepare and do everything we can to be as ready as possible.”

Updated: March 14, 2020 06:11 PM

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