BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Cricket West Indies does not anticipate this year’s home tours being hit by player withdrawals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contending the decision by 10 first team players to opt out of the upcoming Bangladesh series was based on “unusual circumstances”.
Describing as “temporary” the current policy where players were allowed to decline selection in light of the potential risks posed by the coronavirus, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave said he expected selectors to have the full slate of players to choose from, following the Bangladesh tour.
West Indies are scheduled to host tours by Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia and Pakistan following the Regional Super50 Cup in February.
“We all have to accept that we’re all operating, working, living in very different times, under very different circumstances,” Grave said.
“We made it very clear to the public, the fans and players that during this unprecedented time, playing in these unusual circumstances that we would give the players the opportunity, if they didn’t feel safe, didn’t want to leave their families or they had reservations, that we would support their decision not to tour.
“We’ve had players do that in the case of the England tour, both in the men’s and the women’s. We’ve had players pull out of New Zealand [and] we’ve clearly had more players [pull out of] Bangladesh but that in part is because we’ve had such a long period of playing cricket in these bio-secure environments that are very different and very unusual for players, especially when we’re expecting them to go out in front of the world and perform at their best.”
He continued: “This isn’t something that’s restricted to West Indies cricket and also, it is a temporary policy. It’s not something that we anticipate lasting forever. It’s purely to do with the unusual circumstances, particularly playing away from home.
“We don’t expect this policy to continue after the Bangladesh tour because we’ve got four home tours that follow it, and we would expect all players to be available to play within the region.”
West Indies have been the most active international side since the global lockdown of the sport ended last July, making history with a three-Test tour of England that same month in cricket’s first-ever bio-secure bubble.
Since then, the women’s side toured England for five Twenty20 Internationals while the men travelled to New Zealand for three T20Is and two Tests spanning November and December.
The tour of Bangladesh, which will see a depleted unit featuring in three One-Day Internationals and two Tests during January and February, will mark the third tour for the men’s side amid the ongoing pandemic.
And with Test captain Jason Holder – one of the players to opt out of the Bangladesh tour – alluding to “bubble fatigue” following the New Zealand series, Grave said CWI had gone to great lengths to provide the requisite psychological support for both players and support staff.
“It’s taxing on everyone’s mental health so we’re very aware of that and that’s why we’ve put in these types of supportive policies and put in more people to support the team,” Grave told Starcom Radio’s Mason and Guest radio show, adding that a security and compliance officer had been added to the touring party for Bangladesh.
“That is to do everything we can to ensure the players are safe and by default means they are going to be less worried about it (safety), if we can give them more support and security while they’re there.”
The West Indies contingent have begun leaving the region for the upcoming tour and are expected to arrive in Bangladesh by Sunday.