The story of how cricket united to usher international games back
Last Updated: 09/08/20 3:00pm
Test cricket played in a bio-secure environment without a crowd and social-distancing measures in place.
How would it work? Could it be done? What would the coverage look like?
In our feature, ‘Behind Closed Doors: The COVID Test Match’, we take you backstage at the first #raisethebat Test between England and West Indies at the Ageas Bowl to give you a unique insight into cricket’s extraordinary return as lockdown measures were eased during the coronavirus pandemic.
Click on the video above to see how the cricketing family pulled together to get international cricket back on our screens, including how the players, commentators and Sky Sports production crew had to adapt to an unheralded – and very often surreal – experience.
“I won’t lie, I was worried coming into the week,” said Bryan Henderson, Sky Sports’ director of cricket. “You’re never quite sure how it is going to go.
“But it has been an incredible journey. Obviously when we went into lockdown one of the big challenges was thinking what cricket we might or might not have this season.
“I always felt that behind closed doors was an opportunity – it’s not an opportunity that you really want to explore – but the fact that there was no crowd meant that there were a few decisions that we had to make.”
The road to getting cricket back and onto the screen has been incredibly tough.
At its heart has been Steve Elworthy, ECB Director of Special Projects, and a plethora of people covering all aspects of the game from PPE to screening protocols, from sound to Batcam – or as Ian Ward likes to call it, ‘Dave’ the robot camera who helps conduct the toss remotely.
The regulations have not only meant a re-design of the commentary box but a fundamental change in how players, coaches and members of the media interact to ensure they continue to form a secure bio-bubble.
There has been plenty of innovation along the way, including the introduction of the Player Zone to give Sky Sports remote access to the stars of the game – and it was an idea both teams bought into.
Cricket owes West Indies a huge debt of gratitude for touring in the first place given the ongoing fallout from the pandemic in the United Kingdom and their victory in the opening Test deserved adulation from jubilant fans.
But the Test will also be remembered for the powerful and passionate testimony of commentators Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent, who both spoke out against racism and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a week of extraordinary change, that was the most special moment of all.
Watch ‘Behind Closed Doors: The COVID Test match’ from 8pm, Sunday on Sky Sports Cricket and then On Demand.
Live coverage of the #raisethebat series between England and Pakistan continues from Thursday on Sky Sports Cricket and across Sky’s digital platforms.