West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach seen during a pratice session. AP
West Indies cricket chiefs have given their approval to a Test tour of England where the team will stay in a “bio-secure environment”, although players and staff will have to accept a 50-per cent pay cut.
The Windies were due to play three Tests in England in June but the threat of the coronavirus has pushed the visit back to July at the earliest.
“The Cricket West Indies (CWI) board gave approval in principle for the proposed upcoming West Indies Test tour of England,” said a CWI statement on Friday.
“The decision comes only after CWI medical and cricket-related representatives and advisors have been involved in detailed discussions with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and their own medical and public health advisers.” It added: “CWI has also received and reviewed detailed plans for players and staff to be kept in a bio-secure environment for the duration of the tour, with all matches being played behind closed doors.”
CWI said that all players, staff and umpires across the region would see their salaries halved due to the financial problems caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This pandemic is hurting every West Indian and this decision to cut staff and player incomes has been a very difficult one to make -- one that will impact so many members of the cricketing family around the Caribbean,” said CWI president Ricky Skerritt.
“This business continuity plan unfortunately requires all stakeholders to make a huge sacrifice, but I am confident that it won’t be long before CWI will be in a position to ensure that the sport we love can restart and be enjoyed once again by the thousands of cricket fans across the region and diaspora.”
The ECB has proposed the Tests start on July 8, 16 and 24 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and Manchester’s Old Trafford. Both those venues have on-site hotels.
A number of West Indies players are already back in training, with fast bowler Kemar Roach saying he was looking forward to the tour.
But CWI chief executive Johnny Grave admitted some players may be more reluctant, especially from countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, which has not reported a new coronavirus case since April.
“There has been some nervousness from the players and certainly here in Antigua,” he told BBC Radio.
“We’ve been very open and honest with them and sharing plans from the day we got them from the ECB.
“I think that’s helped players understand what this tour might look like, and from all the players that I’ve spoken to, there’s an eagerness to go to England and get some live cricket back on.
“Certainly we won’t be coercing anyone to go and play. Safety is the number one priority for us and we fully respect any individual player who may not be comfortable to travel.”
Meanwhile, the CWI said the touring party will use private charter planes while medical screenings and individual COVID-19 testing will take place for all players and staff.
England are also scheduled to host matches against the Pakistan, Ireland and Australia this year.
West Indies captain Jason Holder said international cricket will take a “huge step forward” following the coronavirus shutdown as his team arrived on Tuesday for a Test series in England.
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