England cricket chiefs spread COVID-19 on cricket balls to help prove it was safe for the game to return.
London: Lord’s boss Tom Harrison has revealed the extent to which the ECB went as it feared for the very survival of cricket earlier this year.
Harrison had forecast an eye-watering $700 million loss for the English game if no cricket was allowed this summer.
Plans for the game’s return were on the brink of collapse after PM Boris Johnson suggested the ball was “a natural vector of the disease”.
That prompted the ECB to ask its chief medical officer Dr Nick Peirce to conduct a series of tests to prove cricket was safe.
“We built evidence and funded studies to get the scientific answer to questions over whether there were elements of the sport that were unsafe,” Harrison said.
“Putting a virus on a cricket ball and seeing how it behaved is one of the things we did so we could take evidence back to government to say the sport was safe to play.
“That enabled us to build trust with the government — because they are dealing with a pandemic, with people dying in their hundreds at the peak.”
The successful conclusion of the international and one-off truncated version of the county season has helped the sport’s grave financial situation.
Test and limited overs series against West Indies and Pakistan, before the short-form games with Australia capped losses at $190 million.
Harrison, though, warned the crisis is far from over, with that figure potentially doubling by this time next year.
Speaking at the Leaders in Sport forum, Harrison added: “If there is a format of any sport not designed to operate in a pandemic it is Test cricket.
“In the end we managed to get 47 days of international cricket across the line, pioneering an international biosecurity model.
“It went well but we are not anywhere near through this crisis yet. The next six months are fraught with danger — and cricket in this country is no different from that and facing a pretty bleak winter with the events and conference business down. So we have tough times ahead, even if we managed to stave off disaster.”