Matches (15)
WI vs SA (1)
IPL (1)
County DIV1 (3)
County DIV2 (4)
T20WC Warm-up (3)
CE Cup (3)

Mark Boucher focused on 'care factor' after three South Africa players forced to self-isolate

"Sitting in rooms alone for up to 10 days is quite tough," says South Africa head coach

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
South Africa coach Mark Boucher surveys the scene, South Africa v England, 4th Test, Day 1, Johannesburg, January 24, 2020

South Africa coach Mark Boucher surveys the scene  •  Getty Images

With South Africa gearing up for a full international summer of cricket that will run for the next six months, national coach Mark Boucher said working around the coronavirus pandemic is something the set-up would have to get used to.
CSA announced on Wednesday that one player from the 24-man squad that has been assembled to take on England had tested positive for Covid-19, and was removed from the team's biosecure base in Cape Town. Two team-mates are considered close contacts and have also gone into isolation.
All three players are asymptomatic and will continue to be monitored, with no replacements being called up to the squad. Doctor-patient confidentiality means that the names of the players cannot be revealed.
Players were tested again on Thursday morning and will be tested for a third time next week, with the series due to start next Friday.
"Covid is something that is in the world, so we are going to have to live with it," Boucher said. "There are going to be times when guys get infected with Covid-19 and there are medical protocols that you have to follow. It's not ideal. I think it affects everyone. From a sporting team, I think there are probably bigger things in life. It affects families and that's something we are just going to have to deal with."
Boucher said the most important part of dealing with players who test positive is managing their mental health during time in isolation. "At the moment, it's more about the welfare of those players," he said. "The care factor needs to be there because sitting in rooms alone for up to 10 days is quite tough. That's where our focus is, so that when they do come out of it they come back into this environment and they feel like nothing has been lost."
Similarly, taking care of the squad as a whole, who will be moving from one bio-bubble to the next over the course of the season is also top of team management's priority list. For Boucher, the most important component is making sure the place where players stay is as comfortable as possible.
"We have been on tours where there have been security issues and we've had to stay in a hotel environment so the actual living part is not too bad. It's something that we can get used to. We are staying in a fantastic hotel, where there is nice open space and that's something our management team have done really well on. The guys are pretty happy with where we are staying at the moment."
This is not the first time that South African cricket has been affected by Covid-19. The opening round of the franchise four-day competition saw six players from the Warriors squad withdrawn after two tested positive and four others came into contact with them, and several players withdrew from July's 3TC match for related reasons. Boucher was also unable to attend the exhibition match because he had contracted the virus at the time, albeit only a mild case.
"I was one of the lucky ones. I didn't know I had it," he said. "I had been training for quite a few big runs that we do during the offseason and I was still running. When I did find out I had it, I maybe felt a little bit down for one or two days. I was throwing to a couple of guys in the nets and my body was aching and paining and I thought it was because I hadn't thrown balls for so long. But then I realised the virus was the reason I was feeling those aches and pains.
"Thankfully, I didn't get a bad dose, it lasted for two or three days and it was done. Hopefully that happens to a lot of people who do get it."
South Africa has, so far, recorded more than 750,000 positive cases of Covid-19 and 20,556 deaths, but the country remains at its lowest level of lockdown. Almost all activity has resumed although there are limits on the number of people that can gather and fans are not allowed in stadiums.
While this will be the first time that the national cricket team play behind closed doors in the Covid-19 era, Boucher believes that their experience doing so at lower levels and their new team culture of "smart-aggression" will mean the emptiness and silence won't affect the quality of the cricket. "We've played franchise cricket in front of no crowds, so I'm sure the guys are used to that," he said. "There'll be no lack of passion. We're trying to drive a different culture, and I think the passion is going to be there with or without the crowds. We know people will certainly be watching us."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent