If the West Indies tour of England proceeds as it is hoped, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could lead to some unavoidable anomalies during the international series.
There is the prospect of seasoned umpire Chris Broad officiating in a match involving his son, fast bowler Stuart Broad. This could provoke a rethink at the ICC ahead of the resumption of international cricket in England.
The ICC cricket committee recently recommended a suspension in the use of neutral officials to cope with challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. That means there is a real prospect of the Test series between England and West Indies being officiated by the four English umpires on the ICC’s 12 strong elite panel: Nigel Long, Richard Illingworth, Richard Kettleborough and Michael Gough.
But Chris Broad is the only English representative on the ICC’s elite panel of seven match referees. And while no one is questioning his impartiality as an official, it is understood there have been some raised eyebrows in the Caribbean at the prospect of the Test series against England taking place, not only with English match officials, but under the auspices of a match referee who is not only a former England player but the father of one of the current side’s key players.
One option that is likely to be considered is inviting Sir Richie Richardson, the former West Indies captain, to fulfil the role instead. Richardson is also a member of the ICC’s elite panel and could be included on the charter flight paid for by the ECB which will accommodate the West Indies playing squad. Joel Wilson, the Trinidadian, could also be invited along with a view to filling one of the umpiring spots.
It is currently uncertain if Wilson or Richardson would be prepared to leave the relative safety of the Caribbean, where there have been few Covid-19 cases, to embark on a trip that would involve an extended period in isolation.
Another option – and probably the more likely at present – would be to refer any alleged Code of Conduct cases back to ICC Cricket Operations in Dubai. Any subsequent hearings would then be organised through them and run remotely.
The ICC is understood to be continuing to work through the appropriate checks and balances required in order to allow cricket to resume during the pandemic with as few compromises as possible.
Stuart Broad currently has one active demerit point on his ICC record, after been overheard using “inappropriate” language towards South Africa’s captain, Faf du Plessis, during the Johannesburg Test in January.
Recently, seasoned cricket commentator Joseph “Reds” Perreira while stating that he would like the tour to proceed, added that the two teams should not be playing for the Wisden Trophy as they usually did. He said the logistics of hosting the tour were so different from what usually applied in normal circumstances, that the symbol of supremacy between the two countries should not be up for grabs.
Meanwhile, former West Indies captain Sir Clive Lloyd said that it might not be wise for the Caribbean side to go ahead with the tour of England, given the spread of COVID-19 in what is one of the nations hardest hit by the pandemic.
Sir Clive, who is currently in England, expressed those reservations as he stressed that the health of players and everyone involved should be a priority.
“It all depends on the safety. A lot of people are still dying here, you know, and I don’t think it would be wise if your health is at stake,” the former Windies skipper said in response to a question on the Mason and Guest Radio Show about whether he felt the tour should go ahead.
As of Thursday, at least 36,042 deaths were recorded in the United Kingdom from almost 251,000 cases reported.
Cricket West Indies (CWI) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are still in negotiations over a possible July date, after the three-Test tour, which was to begin on June 4, was postponed due to the pandemic.
The ideas on the table for the tour to come off safely include hosting the matches in bio-secure venues and implementing strict quarantine and social distancing protocols.
As far as Sir Clive is concerned, with the COVID-19 pandemic still not under control there was much to take into consideration.
“You have to take all the precautions. You have to wait and see what the medical people are saying…. They say things are getting better but until that happens, I don’t think we can make any particular decision,” he said. (Cricinfo/CMC)