West Indies’ tour to England is inching towards reality with Cricket West Indies (CWI) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Johnny Grave saying they are earmarking June 8 for the squad to leave for the United Kingdom on a chartered flight.
Both CWI and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have been locked in talks over the last few weeks about how to make the tour happen. Grave told ESPNcricinfo on Sunday that the board expects to get a formal offer from the ECB to tour England “probably by the end of the month.” The West Indies board is then expected to approve the series.
“We want four weeks before the first Test to prepare our team so we are currently planning on leaving the week starting June 8,” Grave said.
Both boards have set out proposed dates for the three-Test series with the first match starting on July 8 in Southampton, the second Test from July 16 in Manchester and the final match from July 24 in the same city. Those dates, he said, are yet to be confirmed.
However, it is the logistics of this tour that make it very difficult to get off the ground. West Indies will take a 25-man squad to the UK including 10 reserves. Its first challenge will be getting the players from different islands to one common location.
Grave said, “Effectively we want to bring everyone to probably Antigua and that's mainly because the regional airline LIAT have all their aircraft currently based here so it is easier for them to send planes to the islands to come back to this central hub. So we would look to convene players here by late afternoon, and they would get on a charter flight to the UK immediately after that.”
The CWI CEO assured all the players and support staff selected will be tested privately.
“Everyone would go and get tested in their local country, all those tests would be sent to Florida and the results would come out within - hopefully - 48 hours,” he said.
Grave went on to tell ESPNcricinfo if a player during the series tests positive at any stage of the tour, they would be removed from the main squad and will be placed into isolation within the biosecure environment and will be treated by the team doctor along with the other on-site medical support staff. He says should their symptoms worsen, there are pre-arranged hospital facilities where they will receive further treatment.
Should a player test positive during a match, Grave said, “Similar to a concussion substitute, the ICC would change the regulations to allow a replacement player to take the infected person's place.”
He said at the upcoming International Cricket Council’s (ICC) chief executive committee meeting in early June, it is expected that “those changes to the regulations or laws on the back of COVID-19 would be discussed and agreed.”
Grave said those who are sitting in the meetings are getting more and more confident. He also said no player has yet expressed they don’t want to tour. “What has changed is the ECB have gotten more confident that they've got a robust and safe plan to deal with cricket in a biosecure environment behind closed doors. Our medical team are getting more confident and comfortable with those plans,” said Grave.
He did admit there is some apprehension from the players about their return to the region. Different islands have differing quarantine requirements for those coming into the country. The CEO hopes if they are tested both before they depart the UK and upon arrival, they won’t have to do any quarantine time.