Geoff Allardice, International Cricket Council chairman. (Photo: AFP)
Dubai: The ICC will not confine teams in strict bio-bubbles during the month-long women's World Cup starting in New Zealand from March 4, CEO Geoff Allardice said on Monday, calling on players to be "sensible" in the "managed environment" so that the tournament passes off without a COVID outbreak.
Allardice also made it clear that there will be RT-PCR tests but not very "frequent" like earlier times as they expect the players to stay away from possible transmission zones.
The strict nature of hard quarantine and bio-bubbles have already been causing mental health issues across sports and ICC is well aware of the pressing issues.
"I think the approach is around having a managed environment around the tournament," Allardice said during a media interaction.
"Testing will be infrequent; it won't be daily testing. It's really about players taking responsibility knowing they are in the country for a month and living away for that period not locked into a very tight bubble.
"It's not going to be practical; it's certainly not going to allow teams to play their best on the field," Allardice put forth his point as it should be.
However, he wants the players to be responsible as there will always be cases but the U-19 World Cup has shown that symptoms are are not particularly severe.
"There are some general guidelines that are required, but we're asking players and teams to just be sensible, stay away from areas that are likely to create transmission.
"The other thing is, we found out in last few tournaments - like at the Under-19 World Cup - is even though we had number of positive tests, the number of people displaying symptoms were very low. We want to focus on keeping people safe and healthy. It's a bit of a change from where we may have been six months ago."
Even in the event of an outbreak, the matches will go ahead with as low as nine players in each side, but Allardice hoped that the situation would not become so dire.
"It was something that we had to do over the last few months since the Omicron outbreak. Almost all of our tournaments, we have been challenged with the number of all players being unavailable due to isolation for positive COVID tests," Allardice said.
The nine-player-a-side game is already in place in the ICC guidelines related to playing conditions and has been in effect since the U-19 World Cup in the West Indies, where India won the title for a record fifth time.
There were COVID outbreaks during that event with India, at one stage, left with half a dozen infected players.
"I think one of the shifts is we had quite a close call in the West Indies with the men's Under-19 World Cup, a month or so ago, where there were a number of teams that had breaks.
"And I think we needed to have some contingency plans. The bottom line is we want eleven versus eleven. We have got squads of 15, I think all teams are travelling with some extra reserve players as well, as a contingency," the ICC CEO said.
"...the announcement or introduction of those protocols was very much given the uncertainty of the events that we were dealing with. It is just a contingency. And I am hoping that every match takes place as scheduled with no interruptions, Allardice added.
It's been challenging
Allardice also admitted that it has been a challenge for the cricket body to host events.
"...at the time of the events, the COVID situation is unfolding so, so it has been challenging," Allardice said when specifically asked how difficult it has been to plan the event in New Zealand, where COVID restrictions have been among teh strictest in the world.
"The issue with quarantine and isolation in the lead up to a tournament, is something we had to work around in different ways for the last 18 months for international cricket and for our events, for the last nine months or so.
"For us it is a challenge because we deal with different governments in country to country and they all have a different approach to dealing with COVID," he added.