The ICC is considering allowing COVID-19 substitutes during England's Test series against West Indies, Steve Elworthy, the ECB's director of special projects, has confirmed.
Currently, substitutes are only allowed in Test cricket in the event a player suffers a concussion when he can be replaced by a like-for-like player. Marnus Labuschange became Test cricket's first concussion substitute when he replaced Steve Smith in Australia's team during the Lord's Test last summer after Smith was hit by a Jofra Archer bouncer.
However, the ICC is now looking at whether to extend the scope of the measure to cover any player who develops symptoms of COVID-19 during a match. Although the ECB is finalizing the medical protocols that would be followed in such a scenario, the player would be isolated immediately while tested and then removed from the rest of the game to isolate if they tested positive.
As a result, the potential impacts on the game could be significant, particularly if it occurred early in the game or if a number of players developed symptoms at the same time. There is also the unresolved question of whether players who had come into contact with someone showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as standing next to them in the slips, would also have to be removed from the match.
"COVID-replacements are certainly something that the ICC are discussing," Elworthy told Sky Sports' The Cricket Show. "I have seen communication about that and it's certainly something we hope would be allowed - specifically for Test matches, not necessarily ODIs or T20s.
"That replacement would have to be a 'like for like' player if you will. Our on-site COVID medical practitioner and Public Health England would be informed immediately and that player would then be put into isolation for a period of time, based on government guidance and the medical overlay.
"With the testing protocols of getting those players into that [bio-secure] bubble first, you would hope that wouldn't be a scenario we'd have to deal with. But clearly it is something we are planning for."
The West Indies are set to arrive in the UK on Tuesday (June 9) ahead of the three-Test series which begins on July 8, in a bio-secure environment, and without spectators, at the Ageas Bowl. The tourists, who have named a 25-man squad to cover for injuries, will face a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days once they arrive in England. They will be able to train at Old Trafford, the venue for the second and third Tests, during that time.
A large number of arrangements will be in place for the Test matches including mandatory testing of those inside the ground, strict social distancing and hygiene measures as well as segregation between different groups of people inside the venues. Cricket West Indies have been satisfied with the measures and the ECB hopes to be able to convince the boards of Ireland, Pakistan, and Australia so that matches against those countries can take place later in the year.