ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Cricket West Indies and the England and Wales Cricket Board are scheduled to meet again on Monday to hammer out further details, in an effort to ensure the three-Test tour of the United Kingdom comes off amidst the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to CWI chief executive, Johnny Grave, the two boards had a productive first meeting two weeks ago which included all the key stakeholders from captains to chief medical officers.
But with the situation in the UK – one of the hardest hit regions – still evolving, Grave said CWI was expecting a further update on planning for the series from the ECB, especially with the UK government announcing an ease in lockdown measures this week which could see sport resume behind closed doors.
The series would be the first of its kind to be played at “bio-secure” venues and involve strict quarantine and social distancing protocols, and Grave conceded the experience would be a novel one for players, officials and administrators.
However, he cautioned that despite the ongoing planning, both sides were still “a long way off” on deciding if the tour went ahead.
“We’ve got to get back playing cricket and the cricketers pretty much across the Caribbean have been in complete lockdown in 24-hour curfews, are champing at the bit to get back playing the game they love,” Grave said.
“We’re not going to rush it but it is going to be very, very different, and we’re a long way off being able to confirm whether the tour will happen or not.”
The UK has recorded 237 000 infections and nearly 34 000 deaths but authorities believe the infections have passed their peak. Earlier this week, government announced an ease in the lockdowns which would see a partial reopening of parks and some businesses.
However, government also said there would be no professional sport played until June 1 at the earliest.
Grave acknowledged the UK situation was a fluid one which the ECB was continuing to monitor carefully, while also keeping CWI apprised.
“It’s changing and evolving all the time. I don’t know which version we’re on of the medical plan but there are several iterations of it,” the Englishman said.
“The players would basically be in a bubble and certainly from the point of arrival in the UK, they would be very much isolated from anyone who don’t need to be in direct contact with them the entire length of the tour.
“We’ve said to the ECB we would want four weeks of preparation before the first Test … and we’re looking at three back-to-back Test matches. It would be seven weeks of pretty much training at the ground, staying at the ground and very much being isolated within that hotel environment.”
CWI this week identified 30 players who would possibly make the trip, a “logistical” decision to ensure the board was prepared in case the tour went ahead.
And Grave said he remained “optimistic” the tour could proceed once the UK situation remained stable and the ECB secured government’s approval.
“Actually I’m optimistic and I said before, it’s in everyone’s interest to get the live sport back being played because without it, broadcasters won’t pay and sponsors won’t pay if we’re not delivering the live product,” he said.
“The ECB has got a long way to go to get UK government approval to be absolutely certain that ‘bio-secure’ cricket will work, and then logistically here [in the Caribbean], you’re going to have players across at least eight or nine countries all with different levels of restrictions in terms of COVID-19.
“Logistically to get the players all to one airport and then probably out on one plane is going to be a logical challenge but certainly not insurmountable, and I think certainly if everything goes well and we don’t get spikes of outbreaks or any kind of adverse news … I think we have a right to be optimistic.”
Former West Indies fast bowler and now cricket commentator Ian Bishop has stressed the importance of the tour going forward, and in a safe environment.
“I don’t know that the West Indies board can afford to go for prolonged periods with inactivity. I think that would be the death of them financially and by extension the players around the region will suffer greatly, as have most people in this country and around the world,” Bishop told i95FM Radio in his homeland.
“I know that sports seem like a back burner [issue] to many when so many have been losing their jobs but … sport is not a game. Sport is a job and career as well for all of these players and the people surrounding it.
“So if it happens, I think it would be a good thing as long as it happens safely. I don’t want to put anybody’s life at risk,” he said.
Meanwhile the members of the provisional squad named by CWI were asked to make themselves available and reportedly told of the ramifications of their selection and the new measures and changes should the bio-secure Tests take place in July.
Those players are Barbadians Jason Holder, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shayne Moseley, Kemar Roach, Chemar Holder, Keon Harding, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope, Kyle Mayers, Roston Chase, Shamarh Brooks and Jomel Warrican; Jamaicans John Campbell, Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Paul Palmer Jr and Marquino Mindley; Trinidad and Tobago’s Daren Bravo, Joshua da Silva, Anderson Phillip and Shannon Gabriel; Windward Islands’ Sunil Ambris and Preston McSween; Leeward Islands’ Alzarri Joseph, Jahmar Hamilton and Rahkeem Cornwall; and Guyana’s Shimron Hetmyer, Veerasammy Permaul and Keemo Paul. (CMC/WG)
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