ON the day club training resumed in Northern Ireland, all elite men’s training sessions have been suspended after a player tested positive for Covid-19.

The player, who has not been named, will be re-tested to ensure it is not a false positive, as was the case with Ruhan Pretorius during the recent Ireland Wolves tour to Bangladesh.

Richard Holdsworth, High Performance manager of Cricket Ireland, said: “We want to ensure the risk of Covid-19 is minimised in line with our return-to-training protocols, and have always said that the health and safety of our players and coaches must come first.”

Elite training has always been exempt during the pandemic but this is the first positive case reported this year and although the player concerned was based in just one of the four training hubs being used by Cricket Ireland, he had been a close contact with players using other hubs “so out of an abundance of caution we have stopped training for a few days across all hubs while tests are undertaken”.

Although there is no international cricket until Ireland fly to Netherlands at the end of May, the first inter-provincial of the season is scheduled for May 1, with Leinster Lightning hosting North West Warriors, while the Northern Knights begin their campaign, also in Dublin, three days later.

“It’s vital that we provide our senior players with as much time outdoors training as we can, however this will not come at the risk to their health and safety, and that of their families or close contacts,” added Holdsworth.

Meanwhile, Cricket Ireland have announced the launch of two new mass participation programmes for young children which will available this summer. ‘Smash it’ is targeted at boys and girls aged five to nine years, and is all about making friends and having fun and everyone who registers will receive a t-shirt, backpack, bat and ball.

‘Its’a Wicket’ introduces girls, aged nine to 13, to cricket through skill-based activities and games in six flexible sessions.

NCU general manager Angela Platt said of the programmes: “It’s a Wicket should reinforce our efforts to grow the girls’ game and we look forward to supporting Cricket Ireland and our clubs in these new ventures.

North West counterpart Peter McCartney added: “We first launched ‘Smash It’ in the North West in 2019 and it worked very well at attracting new families into the sport. It’s great to see Cricket Ireland launching it nationally and their committed investment into grassroots cricket.”

The programmes will be delivered by Club Activators who will receive training, resources and clothing. This will take place online on April 19 and 26. Registrations for participants will open on May 10 and the programmes will be rolled out from the start of July.