CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Chief selector Roger Harper has said West Indies are keen to put behind them this week’s ban from training by health authorities and focus on the real mission on the tour of New Zealand.
Health officials in the country prevented the Windies from training for the last few days because members of the squad had “contravened” strict guidelines in their managed isolation facility under COVID-19 protocols.
But Harper, who is travelling with the team in New Zealand, said that it has not distracted the team too much.
“I have been an observer at our training and practice sessions within the bubble that I’m assigned to and I must say the practice sessions were very exciting, so we’re very keen on looking forward to the assignment ahead,” he told the media during a video conference last night.
The players and support staff that endured the managed isolation for the past two weeks were given a clean bill of health, after their third and final round of COVID-19 tests all returned negative for the COVID-19 virus.
“What (the ban) has done, it has affected our preparations because the squad has not been able to train for the last couple of days,” Harper said.
“But like everything else, I think it is an opportunity for us to learn how when we deviate from plans, how it affects the team as a whole and I think that will help to sharpen us and keep us more focused going ahead.”
The squad flew into the southern island city of Queenstown today for two red-ball matches against New Zealand “A” from November 20 to 22 and November 26 to 29 at the John Davies Oval. Batsman Shamarh Brooks said the practice which the team had put in previously had gone very well and added the players were a unified unit and looking forward to the challenge of playing the Kiwis. He said that in the days to come the bowlers had to get some “mileage” in their legs and the batsmen time in the middle in preparation for their international assignments.
Given the recent team issues with the Covid-19 protocols, Brooks ironically urged fans in the Caribbean to “stay safe and sanitize”.
Newly appointed vice-captain Roston Chase who will lead the West Indies in the practice matches in the absence of captain Jason Holder who is in quarantine, said he was looking forward to his new leadership role.
Chase said it felt good “to be free” of the quarantine and based on the intensity and energy in the camp, he felt something special about the tour, similar to the home series against England last year which was won by the West Indies.
Nine other Windies players, who took part in the Indian Premier League, including Holder and Twenty20 International captain Kieron Pollard, arrived in Auckland on Wednesday from Dubai.
They are now undergoing a 14-day period of managed isolation at the same hotel where the rest of the squad was located. The period of managed isolation will end one day before the Windies meet the Black Caps in the first Twenty20 International of a three-match series on November 27 at Eden Park in Auckland.
Meanwhile, the hosts have named a strong 16-member ‘A’ team, including Test international Henry Nicholls, that will face West Indies in the two red-ball matches over the next two weeks.
Nicholls has been sidelined with injury for the past eight months and a calf injury had forced him to miss the opening three rounds of the Plunket Shield, the New Zealand’s first-class championship. He gets an early chance to impress the national selectors against the West Indies in the two practice matches.
Besides Nicholls, two other big names in the squad are the South Africa-born Devon Conway and incumbent Test batting back-up Will Young. Conway will receive his first representative chance since becoming eligible to play for the Black Caps in August.
He was the highest run scorer across all three domestic formats for Wellington Firebirds and his claim to fame was an undefeated 327 against Canterbury in the Plunket Shield last season.
Young will also look to make a strong case for inclusion during the New Zealanders’ home Test matches.
He has a strong first-class record, scoring 4,820 runs at an average of 42.28 in 76 matches for Central Stags and he will be looking for big scores to remind the selectors where he stands in the pecking order.
The Kiwis main strike bowler Trent Boult is also back home from the IPL but there is an extremely tight window between the end of the 14 days in managed isolation and the first Black Caps match against the Windies.
Boult is home along with fellow internationals Kane Williamson, Lockie Ferguson, Mitchell Santner, Jimmy Neesham and Tim Seifert,
The 31-year-old left-armer, speaking to media via a Zoom call from the Chateau on the Park hotel in Riccarton, Christchurch, said he wasn’t sure whether his first match back home would be in the three-match T20 series because he was “targeting those test matches” in December.
“It’s my favourite format and I want to make sure I can ramp up towards them,” Boult said on Friday.
“If I can be involved in the T20s, then that’s exciting, too. But we finish up here a day before that starts, so I’m not too sure.”
Their managed isolation is not scheduled to end until November 26. The other returning Black Caps are expected to be available for the series but it’s still tight nonetheless.