Ireland cricketers come to grips with training in coronavirus era

Ireland cricketers come to grips with training in coronavirus era
Andrew Balbirnie says the social distancing aspect of training hasn’t been too difficult. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland's senior men's cricketers have negotiated their first week at training in the Covid-19 era and team captain Andy Balbirnie believes the transition has been smooth if not completely seamless.

The squad returned to the paddock last Monday at the sport's high-performance facility in Abbotstown's National Sports Campus and the hope is that their work from here on in will be rewarded with some competitive action later in the summer.

“The social distancing aspect hasn’t been too difficult, as you don’t spend too much time in close physical contact at training,” said the Dubliner.

“Obviously the small things like wearing gloves when hitting catches to each other or doing fielding drills it feels different but, in terms of batting, the coach is 22 yards away feeding the bowling machine or throwing the balls at you.

“In that sense, it isn’t too different. Getting your temperature taken and making sure you’re washing your hands is a challenge to remember, but we just have to ensure these just become a habit and a natural activity when we arrive at training.” 

Balbirnie spoke of high spirits at work this week. Hardly a surprise given the manner in which a season full of fixtures and promise was abruptly shuttered back in March. The men's team has lost series against Bangladesh, Pakistan and New Zealand to the pandemic already.

“The big thing during lockdown was learning patience. We didn’t know when we’d be training or whether we’d be playing any games this year at all.

“You had to train by yourself and bide your time and make sure you are focussing that exercise on what you need to be doing. It was about getting yourself into a routine every day. Naturally, you have some bad days and days where negative thoughts may creep in, so it was really important to stay positive.” 

Discussions are still taking place with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) about the possibility of playing three one-day internationals against England at the end of July. The men's T20 World Cup, due to start in October, is unlikely to happen, however.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) deferred a decision on the tournament at its most recent board meeting.

Meanwhile, the process of getting club cricket back on the field is gathering pace with 36 of the country's 118 clubs having completed the training courses for Covid-19 safety officers and more again to do so in the days to come.

Some clubs, especially those with limited members and resources, have reported difficulties in coping with the slew of guidelines and preparatory work that needs to be done. Others are hoping to begin training sessions with restricted numbers early next week.

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