No fans allowed, no saliva on the ball and hand sanitisers on the boundary ropes. Welcome to cricket during coronavirus as it's being played out in the Caribbean this week. Six teams are taking part in the Vincy T10 Premier League at the picturesque Arnos Vale venue near Kingstown, the main city on St Vincent. Although very low key in the global affairs of international cricket, it's the first tournament to be staged in a Test-playing region since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
At first it was hoped that spectators would be allowed to attend as the risk of infection was considered to be extremely low in a country with just 18 recorded cases. "The St Vincent and Grenadines Cricket Association (SVGCA) would have preferred an option of a limited number of spectators, maybe 300 or 500 max in the stadium," admitted SVGCA president Kishore Shallow.
"However, the experts expressed some initial concerns and advised that we attempt to regularise the management of players before we consider having spectators."
Local fans had hoped to see home star Sunil Ambris, one of six so-called "marquee players" in the tournament which runs until May 31. Yes, I could understand the frustration, but similarly, I appreciate the preference of (the health authority) that they do not want to encourage social gatherings," added Shallow.
"At the end of the day, our safety and wellbeing are of paramount importance."Ambris must be thinking he is cursed in his career. When he made his Test debut for the West Indies in a series in New Zealand in 2017, he became the first player in the long history of the game to be dismissed 'hit wicket' in two consecutive innings.
On Friday, playing for the Salt Pond Breakers, at least the 27-year-old had the satisfaction of claiming two wickets in a three-wicket win against Grenadines Divers. The performance of the day, however, was by Desron Maloney whose 19-ball 41 helped La Soufriere Hikers to a nine-wicket win over Botanical Garden Rangers.
The tournament is also the first to take place with bowlers banned from applying saliva to the ball, a long-standing tool in helping achieve swing. The game's rulers are outlawing the practice as part of the battle against the spread of coronavirus. Other safety measures see hand sanitisers situated on the boundary as well as temperature checks.
Umpires are wearing face masks. The cricinfo website reported that the fall of wickets was greeted by the shaking of legs and punching of the ground rather than a series of high fives.