The Netherlands, among others, is making some interesting moves in this respect, with children and young people permitted from this week to begin outdoor training, though not yet to take part in competition matches.
The Dutch Health Department has laid down some key guidelines, and the KNCB has done its part by adding cricket-specific guidance on what this should mean in practice as clubs start to organise their own training sessions.
The government’s rules distinguish between children of primary school age (up to 12 years), who are not bound by social distancing norms, and those aged between 13 and 18, who must continue to observe the 1.5m. distance rule.
For this older group, the KNCB sets a norm of one coach or leader per eight participants, so that a group of, for example, 9 players would need two coaches. This seems like good practice anyway, but in current circumstances it is required in order to ensure that kids – not always the most manageable of customers – keep their distance from one another.
For net sessions, the Bond’s protocol adds, groups should be limited to four, one batter and three bowlers; where possible a middle lane should be used in order to facilitate social distancing; and the batter should return the balls to the bowlers with his or her bat, rather than picking them up by hand.
The handling of equipment is, in fact, a central theme of the guidelines, which recommend that as far as possible players use their own kit, including their own leather ball. Where club balls are used, each player should be given their own, numbered ball at the start of the session, and should use only that throughout.
The KNCB also argues that plastic balls should be used for fielding exercises, and that these should be disinfected regularly, after every exercise and at the end of the session. Where leather balls are in use, they should be cleaned regularly with disinfectant wipes.
More generally, all concerned are urged to maintain good hygiene: no spitting or blowing of noses onto the field, and no spitting on the ball or otherwise running the risk of contaminating it by, for example, scratching the surface.
The KNCB further recommends that a coach or other official be designated ‘Corona-verantwoordelijke’ [Corona Officer], who would be responsible for putting out any training equipment, including cones, using protective gloves while doing so, and for disinfecting it all at the end of the session.
All in all, it is a careful and well-considered document, and it is to be hoped that all Dutch clubs will implement it fully.
It may also be of help to cricket authorities elsewhere as they begin to wrestle with a world in which Covid-19 still hangs over us all.