English cricket has avoided a disastrous scenario, says ECB director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles, after it was found Jofra Archer broke bio-secure protocols to return to his flat. Upon making the unsanctioned stop he came in contact with an individual who the ECB revealed has subsequently returned a negative test for Covid-19.
Archer made the visit to his home in Hove on Monday between travelling from the Ageas Bowl to Emirates Old Trafford. The trip only surfaced by chance during a conversation he had with another member of the England staff. Due to the strictness around the biosecure environment, that member of staff had no choice but to report Archer to senior management. He was subsequently excluded from the squad for the second Test.
On Wednesday evening the ECB was able to promptly test the person Archer met, and received the results on Thursday morning. Had they tested positive, the series – maybe even the summer – could have been in jeopardy.
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“This could have been disaster,” said Giles, when asked to comprehend the magnitude of Archer’s error.
It was only a few months ago that chief executive Tom Harrison detailed how English cricket faced losses of £380m if no cricket was to be played this summer because of coronavirus.
Due to the scale of the operation and the government’s involved in helping these behind-closed-door matches off the ground, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was alerted to the situation by the ECB on Thursday morning.
Such is the reliance on the DCMS’s blessing that a serious breach could see the series cancelled and cost the ECB many more millions than the £100m it is already expecting to lose this summer. The medical teams of Pakistan, Ireland and Australia – all due for series here later in the summer – were also kept abreast of the situation.
“It’s a small act,” Giles said. “But the ripple effect this could have had through the whole summer could have cost us tens of millions of pounds. Hopefully we can look back on it and Jofra can learn from it. And he will learn from it, I’m sure. The potential knock-on effect of this, I don’t think he could have totally understood. I think we made it very clear of what we expected and what the protocols mean but maybe he didn’t quite understand what the consequences could be.”
Archer must now remain isolated in his room for five days and will be tested twice in that time, once on either Friday or Saturday and then on the fifth day of isolation. Both need to return negative if he is to rejoin the playing group after this period.
Players in the bio-secure bubble at the Ageas Bowl were told to make their way straight to Manchester, with designated stopping points for taking a break or refuelling relayed to them on the way.
It is understood England captain Joe Root and head coach Chris Silverwood were alerted to Archer’s indiscretion at around 10.30pm on Wednesday evening, around seven hours after they had picked him in their squad of 13 for the second Test.
Despite missing the quick, who took three for 45 on the final day of the first Test to almost turn the game England’s way, James Anderson and Mark Wood were not drafted in from their prescribed rest as Root opted for an attack of Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran. Naturally, players and coaches are deeply frustrated with Archer.
The scale of the operation to get on cricket this summer during the pandemic necessitates such stringent rules. Players, coaches, venue staff and even visiting journalists are subject to standards of behaviour which increase in robustness the more involved you are. It is a responsibility that is hammered into the players, in writing and in person. And, crucially, before they were sent away from the Ageas Bowl on Monday.
A list of “safe” service stations were provided along the route. Some players even stayed on at the Ageas Bowl to play golf on the adjoining golf course, but the majority made their way to Manchester. They were told to be at the hotel at a certain time on Monday evening. Everyone, including Archer, stuck to that timeline.
There is a question to be asked of why the team did not travel together as one, in multiple coaches like the West Indies, to avoid any such incidents. But, as per medical advice, England players and staff are encouraged to drive around in their individual cars because of safety issues and the logistics of having to leave your car in one place for months on end. This will remain the protocol going forward.
Giles confirmed Archer will face an internal disciplinary hearing among England’s management team. While there is sympathy, there is an understandable desire to make sure players are under no illusions as to what is acceptable. An example could be made of him.
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