May 6, 2020 / 5:44 AM / in 21 days

Playing without fans won't diminish competitive edge - Stokes

(Reuters) - England all-rounder Ben Stokes says playing in closed stadiums would not dampen the competitive side of matches and that players “would do anything” to get cricket back on television screens for fans to watch during the COVID-19 crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - South Africa v England - Third T20 - Supersport Park, Centurion, South Africa - February 16, 2020 England's Ben Stokes in action REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The spread of the novel coronavirus has brought sport to a standstill. Staging games without spectators has been suggested as one way to resume professional cricket.

England’s home series against West Indies scheduled for June has been postponed, with the likelihood of those three tests being played later in the summer without fans.

When asked if cricket might lose its competitive edge in such an atmosphere Stokes, 28, said that even without fans the players would still be going out to win.

“Think about it, we are walking out to represent our country, we got three lions on our chest and there is a game that we are supposed to win,” Stokes told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“So whether it’s in front of nobody or, like we are used to, in front of full crowd, I don’t think it’s going to take that competitive side away.

“It’s a completely different scenario to get our heads around, that there isn’t going to be the atmosphere or cheering that we’re used to when we play international game.

“We would do anything to get cricket back on the TVs and for people to follow and watch. If that means you have to play in front of nobody then so be it,” he added.

Stokes, a key part of England’s 2019 World Cup triumph, was not sure when cricket would resume but felt bigger issues were at stake.

“We are still not 100% sure when that’s going to happen,” he said.

“... at the end of the day, cricket is just a sport and the safety, health and wellbeing of everybody involved, not just in the team but around cricket community, is important right now.”

Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford

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