England players to return to individual training next week

England cricket team arrives at the hotel after England's two test matches against Sri Lanka under the ICC World Test Championship have been postponed due to fears over the coronavirus, in Colombo

LONDON (Reuters) - The England men's squad will return to individual skills-based training next week in venues across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Thursday.

Centrally contracted bowlers and those invited from the county circuit will train for the first two weeks and once they "reach their desired loading efforts", batsmen and wicketkeepers will begin their individual sessions, the ECB said in a statement.

Players will undergo temperature checks and observe social distancing guidelines as laid out by the government. With dressing rooms, players and support staff will need to arrive in full kit for training.

"To be clear, we will only train and potentially play cricket behind closed doors if we know it is absolutely safe to do so and is fully supported by the Government," Ashley Giles, managing director of England Men's Cricket, said.

"We are in constant dialogue with players, coaches and counties to determine what is possible during this period and what facilities will be available to us."

England women's players are expected to return to training in late June.

With over 33,000 fatalities from the coronavirus, Britain has Europe's highest death toll, but the government has given the green light for elite sport to return from June 1.

The ECB hopes to host a three-test series against West Indies in July.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)