England cricketers relieved by cancellation of Sri Lanka tour
Joe Root says the squad touring Sri Lanka are now "at ease" after the decision to postpone the two-Test series due to start in Galle on March 19
15 March 2020, 08:08 PM AEST
England Test captain Joe Root has backed the decision to abandon the Test tour of Sri Lanka over the coronavirus pandemic, saying the players' minds were "elsewhere".
A practice match in Colombo was halted on Friday and the team announced they would be flying back to London.
The two-Test series, which was due to start in Galle on March 19, has been postponed.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic worsening globally, and after discussions with Sri Lanka Cricket, we have today made the decision to return our players to the U.K and postpone the forthcoming Test series between Sri Lanka and England.
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England seamer Stuart Broad said it had been "quite surreal to see people fighting over loo roll in the supermarkets" while the players were in sun-drenched and relatively trouble-free Sri Lanka.
But Broad added the mood had quickly changed in the England camp as the global pandemic spread with "a lot of 'what ifs' from the players' point of view".
"What would happen if one of us got it? The whole squad would have to go into 14-day quarantine. What would happen if a family member fell ill at home, and we had been in quarantine overseas? That would have meant no way of getting back to them. What would happen if one of our supporters got it and it then started spreading through the rest of the fans? There were an estimated 3,000 set to travel," Broad wrote in his Daily Mail column.
"Major worldwide (sporting) events were being postponed and there was a feeling within our group that we ought to think about where we stood.
"Thankfully it did not come to that. The call came from the top. It can't have been easy, with all the financial aspects of a tour like this, and ultimately we want to be playing cricket for England so we were sad to be leaving."
The England and Wales Cricket Board said the physical and mental well-being of the players and support staff was paramount.
"There was an element of relief. The right decision has been made," Root told the BBC.
"You could see looking at the players that their minds were elsewhere thinking about people back home. Now that we can go and look after families and be with loved ones, that's put a lot of guys at ease."
The skipper said there had been a lot of talk about the virus in the dressing room and it had started to overshadow the cricket.
"Looking at how quickly things have happened at home, you're thinking about family and friends who might be a bit more vulnerable and that's hard when you're a long way away.
"It was clear it was getting in the way of performance and affecting the mental well-being of the guys."
They made a very tough but necessary decision and credit to them for putting the players and the fans first."
England's series with Sri Lanka is one of a number of international series to have fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
India and South Africa have cancelled their limited-overs series while the New Zealand government's travel restrictions saw the Black Caps to fly home from Sydney with the remaining two matches of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series with Australia cancelled.
A three-match T20 series that was to be played in New Zealand has also been cancelled.
Cricket Australia also Sunday cancelled the final round of the Marsh Sheffield Shield due to travel concerns but has deferred a decision on the March 27 final of the competition in light of the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic.