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. West Indies flew out of Caribbean on Monday night after the entire squad and coaching staff tested negative for coronavirus.
They will now quarantine and train at Emirates at Old Trafford for three weeks before heading to The Ageas Bowl ahead of the first Test, which starts on July 8. Holder said, “This is a huge step forward in cricket and in sports in general as we travel over to England for this series. A lot has gone into the preparations for what will be a new phase in the game” said Holder, whose side hold The Wisden Trophy having beaten England 2-1 in the Caribbean in early 2019. He added, “I’m happy for the support and well-wishes we have been receiving from our loyal and dedicated fans once it was confirmed the tour would go-ahead. This has been a source of great inspiration.”
Assistant coach Roddy Estwick was also optimistic about the team’s chances if they can contain the England bowling attack. “Three years ago, it was a very, very young unit,” Estwick said of the team who lost the 2017 series 2-1 in England. “Now we’ve got seasoned Test players, we’ve got players with 50 Test matches. So I think once we can hit the ground running and get the preparation in, get some match practice under our belts, we can be a lot better. We’ve got youngsters coming through. If we can get scores on the board we can really challenge England because I know bowling will be good.” The teams will be allowed to substitute players displaying coronavirus symptoms following an International Cricket Council announced on Tuesday of the change for Test matches. Other changes made to accommodate Covid-19 include players no longer being allowed to use saliva to shine a ball and the temporary removal of a need for neutral umpires. As a result of the latter change, Teams will be given an additional DRS review per innings, upping allocations to three. These matches are designed to demonstrate the game is still alive, to entertain a sports-deprived public and to help minimize the financial losses of the ECB that are an inevitable consequence of the pandemic.
Three West Indies players – Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul – exercised their right not to tour, which means there are some relatively unknown names among the Test squad of 14 players, nine of whom hail from Barbados. The Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford were chosen as bio-secure venues due to their on-site hotels, medical facilities and ability to enforce social-distancing measures. Emirates Old Trafford will stage the final two matches of the series, with the second Test beginning on July 16 and the third on July 24. Fans that have had to make do with months of television repeats can now look forward to the real thing again.