Clean balls please as cricket stays alert

The potential for locals to see Test captain Tim Paine and some of Australia’s best players up close in Adelaide this week has Cricket Australia officials on high alert.

Paine and Test batsmen including Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Burns will open the Sheffield Shield season not quite in a locked-down biosecurity bubble but playing under COVID-19 restrictions which will still require significant extra precautions from everyone.

Visits to packed pubs and restaurants, which are open in Adelaide, are out amid a “commonsense” approach to community interactions for players from all six states in the city until the mid-November.

With all four opening rounds of the Shield season being played at venues accessible to the public, balls leaving the playing field will mean a double dose of cleaning should they be retrieved by interested onlookers.

All attendees will also be required to register for contact tracing when they arrive.

“They are very open venues, people can still come down to the park. The measures around what we do with the ball, transition of the ball, that’s all being worked through,” CA general manager of high performance, Drew Ginn, said on Thursday after five months of planning for the season.

“When the ball comes back into play, whoever has had contact with it will disinfect their hands, and the umpire will clean the ball.

“The hub is a bit more free flowing. While we have to keep the players safe, it means that largely the competition can under way, and the training environment and the competition environment is a bit more normal.”

A ban on using saliva to shine balls remains in place too, and Ginn conceded players had reported that it hadn’t been “smooth sailing” for those bowlers trying to swing the Kookaburra they will use in competition.

But the Shield bowlers could also be seen as lab rats, working out the best “ball management” practices foe their Test counterparts to use when they take on India in December.

“They players who have had experience with this have acknowledged that it’s not smooth sailing, but we will see how it plays out,” Ginn said.

“It really comes to the relevance of the Shield competition. The more the players who are playing can use their experience, the better it is for the national team.

“(National coach) Justin Langer and the coaching group and the players will be doing everything they can to learn as much as they can.

“High performance athletes will do that, they will learn and improve and adapt to their constraints.”

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Victoria remains in “restrictive” accommodation, having to serve a mandatory 14-day period in quarantine, which has impacted training too.

The Vics, under new coach Chris Rogers, can only train in groups of four and will only exit quarantine the day before their first game against NSW.

“There are general concerns around the Victorian situation. There’s changes happening all the time with the messages we are getting around exemptions and what they can do,” Ginn said.

“The main thing is we keep the players safe and the community safe. As long as we are following the guidelines, the tolerance, with the pandemic, we have to acknowledge it won’t be perfect.”


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