Great to be back, but it’s not going to be the same says Essex head coach McGrath
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 July 2020
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Essex’s cricketers have come off furlough, out of lockdown and back to training, but into a world that has changed almost beyond recognition.
And after a Spring of forced inactivity for the defending County Championship and Vitality Blast T20 champions, head coach Anthony McGrath said: “It’s great being back. Not that they’re normal training days.
“The players can’t train with their team-mates, they’re training one-on-one [with the coaches]. The bowlers aren’t bowling at batters, they’re bowling at a net. The batters are just facing a coach throwing down. It’s very strange and abnormal.”
The 2019 Double winners were released from captivity on Monday, but progress through stage one of their regulated rehabilitation has been frustratingly slow.
“Because the lads haven’t done anything for three months they’ve got to go in and see the physio and do the fitness tests to check them out physically,” added McGrath.
“Then we get about a half-hour with them for the skills stuff. It’s taken us three days to get through all 21 members of the pro squad who are here at the moment.
“We’ve got a temperature check when we come in the ground and we fill in a questionnaire, which asks ‘How are you feeling? Have you had any symptoms?’ But we haven’t got testing in place. We’re obviously training with social distancing because it’s one-on-one at the moment. Everyone’s got their own ball. The coaches have to wear gloves and masks if we’re inside.”
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The present regime – overseen by coaches McGrath, Barry Hyam, Andre Nel and Tom Huggins – is likely to be repeated for another week, until the structure is announced for the truncated season to start on August 1.
“Until we’re clear on what comp we’re playing we’re pretty much in the dark,” McGrath said. “So we are using these two weeks to try and get through as much as we can according to the guidance we’ve been given. And then we’ll react to which comp we’re going to be playing in. We should know that by the end of next week.
“We’re happy to play whatever competition, be it red-ball, 20 overs or 50 overs, as long as it’s safe for players, staff and whoever is in the ground. But a bio-secure environment, where you are staying on site and not leaving, is very different to what we’re doing. We’re training, going home and seeing family and following government advice.
“The players look in decent shape. They’ve been doing their individual training, but they’ve not done a lot of gym work. They’ve lost quite a bit of muscle from not being in the gym. There is a worry about – if we do play red-ball – how much they will have bowled before because they won’t have done a lot.
“The medical team are doing their sums on how their fitness figures look from March to now, and we’ll find that out soon.
“All we really want, if we are going to be playing at the start of next month, is to prepare properly. And that’s preparing as a team, doing proper team drills and getting everything going. At the moment we’re not. So we’re hoping that in the next week or two we’ll be able to prepare and train as normal.”
It is likely that when cricket does return, it will be behind closed doors with McGrath adding “It’s going to be very strange. If you’ve ever been to a pre-season friendly with no one in the ground, it’s very eerie and it feels very slow-paced.
“The players have got to deal with it. I’m sure they’ll be as professional as they can. But there’s no doubt about it, the game won’t be the same without spectators and the interaction with the crowd. Hopefully it won’t be long before they allow spectators back into the ground.”
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