West Indies will give their players the option to miss this summer’s tour of England as the two boards work towards staging a rearranged Test series under bio-secure conditions.
They were due to defend the Wisden Trophy in June, but the corona-virus pandemic means the teams are awaiting details of a revised schedule with a possible start on 8 July behind closed doors, subject to government approval.
The England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket West Indies held initial talks on the subject on Friday evening, with a conference call that featured the two captains, Joe Root and Jason Holder, the head coaches, Chris Silverwood and Phil Simmons, as well as medical officers and administrators from both sides of the Atlantic.
An ECB spokesperson described the discussion as “wide-ranging, including dialogue around revised schedules and Covid-19 medical and bio-security planning”, but it was essentially the opening exchanges for what will be a lengthy process.
The Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford are viewed as frontrunners to host the three-Test series given their on-site hotels.
But there remains a huge amount of detail for the ECB’s events and medical teams to work through, not least the availability of testing and the logistics of flying in players and support staff from multiple Caribbean islands.
Ensuring both sets of players and their unions are comfortable with the provisions and protocols will be key once Dr Nick Peirce, the ECB’s chief medical officer, and Dr Akshai Mansingh, his West Indies counterpart, have given their consent.
A source in the West Indies camp has described the process at their end as being similar to the talks that preceded the 2018 and 2019 tours of Pakistan by their men’s and women’s teams, albeit with health, not security, as the primary concern.
On those occasions West Indies allowed players who were not assuaged to stay at home without the decision being held against them by the selectors. Holder and Carlos Brathwaite were among those to skip the men’s tour on security grounds, while the women’s captain, Stafanie Taylor, followed suit 12 months later.
The Observer has been told the same policy will be in place but Holder expects his players will travel. The West Indies Test captain told CNC3 TV in Trinidad:
“To play at the highest level to empty stands to me is not ideal, but if circumstances do dictate that has to be the case, well I just think we’ve got to get on with it. It’s a bigger picture of cricket actually being played, so it’s just a matter for us to get on with it and accept it for what it is if it comes to that.”
Holder would be loth to bring over a weakened team, not least having beaten England 2-1 in the Caribbean last year — a performance that allied a fiery four-pronged pace attack with diligent batting — and also shown that the current generation can compete on British soil through their famous Shai Hope-inspired Headingley heist in 2017.