On the day England were able to finally confirm behind-closed-doors Test matches against West Indies, their captain confirmed his participation for the start of the series would be in doubt as he awaits the birth of his second child.
After months of discussion between the ECB and WICB, a three-match series was confirmed starting from 8 July at the Ageas Bowl, with the second and third Tests taking place at Emirates Old Trafford. Edgbaston will be used as a contingency and training base, where visiting squads will serve their time in quarantine while building up match fitness.
The selection of those three venues out of the 11 grounds which host men’s international cricket was based on their ability to cater for robust medical screening and stringent biosecurity measures. The latter involves controlling access to the perimeter of the ground and having hotel accommodation onsite or nearby. Players, staff and media will have to remain within these areas for the duration of the match and any quarantine periods that may have to be adhered to as per government guidelines.
Players and staff involved in putting these games on are wary of the issues around staying contained within this “bubble” for an extended period of time. Root’s wife, Carrie, is expected to give birth at the start of July.
When asked if he would be at his partner’s side regardless of the situation, he answered, unequivocally, “yes”. If it is the case that no one is allowed to come and go from the venues, he could legitimately miss the entire series.
“The start of July is the due date, so that complicates things slightly,” said Root. “In terms of the bubble, and the pregnancy, it's always an evolving thing, it's been discussed currently with the medical team, we're always trying to stay up to date with it.
"At the minute, it’s still open for discussion, how that will finally look I’m not exactly sure right now but it will have to come down to government advice, whatever that is, we’ll follow those protocols and do whatever is right.”
This would be the first Test match England play without Root since January 2014, when he was dropped for the final match of the 2013/14 Ashes series. The ECB still hope they will be able to create what they are calling a “bridge to the outside” which will allow players and other staff to leave these secure environments for a few days at a time.
The practicalities of the “bridge” are still being assessed by the ECB chief medical officer Nick Pearce and, as with the dates of the Test matches, will be subject to government legislation. Director of events Steve Elworthy said on Friday he hopes to have confirmation on that “as soon as possible” to ease the worries of Root and others involved.
Slowly but surely things are coming together for the ECB in their pursuit of recouping as much of the £252m loss to revenues they can by putting on as much of their originally scheduled international cricket as possible. A loss of £100m has already been accepted and the ECB are beholden to the government for stage four approval for international fixtures to take place. But there is optimism that, along with the West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland can go ahead in these unique settings to ensure broadcast demands are met.
Root was one of 37 players who returned to outdoor training on Monday, joining the 18 bowlers who began their tailored programmes on 21 May. However, the Yorkshireman was not training at his home ground at Headingley but at Nottinghamshire’s Trent Bridge where he was reunited with former two-time England head coach Peter Moores. During Root’s time under Moores’ second reign from 2014 to 2015, he scored 1,135 Test runs at an average of 94.
“Logistically, from where I live, it’s closer and easier to get to Trent Bridge than it is to Headingley,” said Root. “I obviously spent a good couple of years working with Pete on my batting and you could argue that some of my best years batting-wise were whilst he was in charge.
“It has been nice to touch base with him again. There wasn’t much coaching done yesterday. It was more about getting back into it, hitting some balls, and feeling good. It would be nice to get his input on things as the week progresses, leading into the next phase.
“It was pretty straightforward, actually. There are obviously a lot of protocols put in place, but it wasn’t too dissimilar to how you would normally go about a net session. It was a bit strange not being able to pick the ball up and throw it back. I was a bit rusty in a few aspects, but pleased with how it all fell together and very excited to be back playing now."