Cricket news - Woakes opens up on first training session in controlled environment

Woakes is amongst the 18 bowlers chosen by the ECB to start individual training.

Woakes is amongst the 18 bowlers chosen by the ECB to start individual training.

Pulling into Edgbaston in his car on Thursday (May 21) morning ahead of his first individual training session since the COVID-19 lockdown began, Chris Woakes knew exactly what he needed to do and where he needed to go. Every little detail had been mapped out to ensure he didn't come into contact with anyone. Woakes even had a dedicated toilet exclusively for his use. "It was very strict, as strict as it can be possibly be," he said.

The 31 year-old was one of a number of players who returned to training yesterday as the ECB step up preparations for a resumption of cricket later this summer. Up to 18 bowlers have been selected for the first wave of training, across seven venues, and batsmen and wicket-keepers will follow in the first week of June. Strict social distancing and hygiene measures are in place for the individual sessions.

First up, Woakes had to take a temperature test at home using a thermometer provided by the ECB and then answer a number of "wellness" questions. "Is anyone in your family unwell? No. Are you feeling unwell? No. Are there any symptoms? No. Put your temperature in the app, and if all the questions are answered correctly, you're free to go into training."

One of the stipulations is that players have to drive themselves to the ground they are training at, wearing their kit so they don't have to use any changing room facilities. Edgbaston is currently being used as a coronavirus testing centre so Woakes had been briefed as to what route he should take once inside the ground and where his designated parking space would be. He walked alone onto the outfield near the Hollies Stand.

"This has all been planned in the last few weeks, so it's as safe as possible," Woakes said. "We don't come into contact with anyone. I took everything I needed for training with me: bottles. towels, medicine balls, bands that I use for warming up. I was given a box of balls, ready there for me to use once I got into the ground. And then those balls are now mine. No one else will touch them - the whole thing of having one skin on each ball.

"On arrival there's a station where you can wash hands and put anti-bacterial wash on before you start. There was a physio from Warwickshire there with me but again we don't come into contact. We stay well more than 2 metres apart. I did my training, took about an hour, and then I walked back through the Hollies to my car and left."

All the bowlers have individualised plans to follow based on age and injury history. Logistics will play a part in the scheduling too with a number of players using each ground and the imperative to keep people apart. While Woakes bowled five overs on Thursday at "roughly 50%" and will return to Edgbaston on Monday for his next session, Stuart Broad trained at Trent Bridge on both Thursday and Friday this week.

For Woakes, Thursday's session, which was supported by Warwickshire bowling coach Graeme Welch, was a first glimpse of what playing behind closed doors in bio-secure environments might look like if Test series against West Indies and Pakistan get the go-ahead for later this summer. "It gave us a bit of an inkling about how strict we have to be," he said. "How it can work well and safely. The thing that has come out of it is that they want everyone to feel 100 per cent safe as possible.

"We will get more of an inkling when we start practising more as a team: have more people training at an area of a venue. There are no changing rooms involved at the moment. When you get to games that will change. Match mode will look a lot different.

"First and foremost we just hope there's going to be some form of cricket. Obviously it's going to look different, with it being behind closed doors. All sports are going to be that moving forward for a while. That will be different, but at the same time it will be nice to have some cricket.

"I think for everyone it'll be a bit of a boost, and obviously it'll be a boost for the game. We've all seen the projections, that the ECB and the game in general could be in a bit of trouble if we weren't to play any cricket this summer, so hopefully we can get some form of schedule going."

For now though, Woakes was just pleased to be back on the field with a ball in his hand. "It's what we know, it's what we do," he said. "Obviously, it's the job, so it was nice to have some form of normality going back to some training. It looks a lot different to what we're used to but at the same time, with what's everyone's been through, it was quite nice to be out there and do a bit of training and get the ball back in hand.

"It's been two months since I last bowled and it was nice to be back in the middle, albeit a little different. A little sore this morning. The first waddle to the toilet was a bit interesting. Obviously not having bowled for two months, there's a few things that are sore. The sides definitely woke up this morning knowing I'd had a bowl yesterday but nice to be back out there."

Back out there and sporting a retro head band having not had a proper hair cut for three months. "I needed it to keep my hair out of my eyes," Woakes said. "The alice band will probably be a feature for a while until I can get it cut. My wife had one but it wasn't any good, so I got her to order some new ones. Amazon is going through the roof isn't it?"