Limit on squads at ICC events increased to 30 in response to Covid-19

Up to seven additional players or support staff will be permitted at senior ICC events

Teams at senior ICC events, starting with the 2021 T20 World Cup, will be allowed to take up to seven additional players or support staff, as part of the governing body’s ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year, the ICC brought in a squad limit of 23 – comprising 15 players and up to eight staff – for senior men’s and women’s tournaments, and 20 for junior events. Countries competing at the T20 World Cup later this year, as well as the Women’s 50-over World Cup in 2022, will now be able to extend their playing squads to 22, or include additional support.

Enlarged squads to cover for injury and illness have become a feature of international cricket played over the last year, as teams negotiate the various border control and quarantine restrictions in place around the world.

The ICC’s latest board meeting included an update on preparations for the Men’s T20 World Cup in India, and referred to “positive discussions” between the BCCI and the Indian government around tax arrangements and visa guarantees.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo earlier this week, the ICC has also decided to continue with a range of pandemic-related measures, including the use of non-neutral umpires, Covid substitutions and a ban on saliva being used to shine the ball.

England are set to recruit a dedicated staff member to look after their players’ mental wellbeing, in response to concerns about the consequences of having to spend extended periods in biosecure environments.

England’s limited-overs tour of South Africa was cut short earlier this month, with Ashley Giles, the England men’s managing director, admitting that “mental health and wellbeing is the absolute priority for us” after the party were shaken by a number of positive Covid-19 tests during the series.

The Test squad are due to depart for Sri Lanka on Saturday – they will all be tested on Wednesday, with the results expected within 48 hours – ahead of a run of six Tests on the subcontinent and England’s selectors have already signalled that players will be given time off. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes were rested for the Sri Lanka series, while Jos Buttler is expected to miss a portion of the India tour.

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The ECB went to great lengths to stage a full summer of biosecure cricket in 2020, despite the effects of the pandemic, but Tom Harrison, the board’s chief executive, later admitted that player welfare would become more of a focus.

England had previously expanded the role performed by Mark Saxby, the team’s massage therapist, to include responsibilities relating to behaviour, mental health and wellbeing. Although financial constraints brought on by Covid-19 have led to job cuts at the ECB, further support is set to be provided.

“Ashley is in the process of appointing a mental health and wellbeing person across the team, different from the psychology and the clinical element, but actually looking at mental wellbeing as being part of our high-performance set-up as a permanent position,” Harrison told the Times.

“We have huge admiration and respect for the playing group. You saw the commitment they were making to the bigger picture through the lockdown period when we weren’t playing. And then obviously the commitment to a very different type of existence through the bubble. Mental wellbeing has become such a feature of the way in which we evaluate player health in a much more acute way than even 12 months ago.”

England players have been regular visitors to Loughborough over the Christmas period – although snowfall in the Midlands may have undermined attempts to acclimatise for Sri Lanka – and subjected to symptom checks and testing amid concerns about new strains of the coronavirus that have emerged in both the UK and South Africa.

Following the Sri Lanka tour, which was aborted in March as the pandemic escalated worldwide, England are due to play four Tests, five T20Is and three ODIs in India. In all, the full itinerary encompasses three months away, with the English season set to begin a few weeks later.