London, March 21: The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has suspended all professional cricket till May 28, delaying the start of the new season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ECB took the decision following discussions with the First Class Counties, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA).
"It was agreed that, given the current information available, a seven-week delay to the start of the season is the most appropriate approach," an ECB media statement said.
The Board also announced that it is working on three new options, including the three-Test series against West Indies, the T20 Cup and the women's schedule against India, for a possible start in June, July or August.
"Close liaison with the Government will continue, with discussions on the potential of starting the season behind closed doors and giving sports fans the opportunity to live broadcast action," the statement said on Friday.
"The potential for reduced versions of competitions, should the season become further truncated, will also be discussed."
The ECB said it will meet as needed to review the position and make further decisions as the UK situation unfolds. "During this period of deep uncertainty it is the ECB's first priority to protect the wellbeing of everyone within the cricket family, from players, to fans and colleagues across the game,'' ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison said.
"The decision to delay the start of the season has been essential, given the circumstances the nation faces. I am reassured by the collaborative effort from across the game that together, we will make the very best of whatever length of season we are able to safely schedule in the coming months," he added.
He said this would give the ECB time to keep pace with a fast-moving situation and continue to plan for how a revised season might look. "Critically, we can also remain as flexible and adaptable as possible, within the obvious restrictions we face." Last week, England's tour of Sri Lanka was called off mid tournament in view of the rising threat of the pandemic.
"Securing the future of the game will be a primary focus as we plot a revised schedule with an emphasis on the most financially important forms of the game for the counties across international and domestic cricket," Harrison said. The COVID-19 global death toll has climbed past 11,000 with more than 250,000 infected. In UK, close to 4000 have tested positive so far and 177 died.