West Indies head coach Phil Simmons was granted permission to attend his father-in-law’s funeral in England last Friday. That’s the word from Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave, who was responding to queries from Sportsmax.TV.

Simmons has been self-isolating since and will only be permitted to re-join the team on Thursday, July 2, if he returns two negative Covid-19 tests.

However, his decision to leave the bio-secure location has raised some concerns and questions over whether the head coach unilaterally decided to leave the facility where the team has been preparing for the coming three-Test series beginning July 8.

Grave assured that Simmons received permission from the Chief Medical Officers of Cricket West Indies and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

“Yes, he left to go to his father-in-law's funeral on Friday and is now going through the re-entry process having had his whole exit and entry approved and managed by the medical teams,” Grave said.

In Simmons’ absence, assistant coaches Roddy Estwick and Rayon Griffith will oversee the Windies four-day, first-class fixture that starts on Monday.

Floyd Reifer will be the batting coach

West Indies captain Jason Holder said the Windies are not favourites for their upcoming series against England but his players are eager to get into action.

Cricket West Indies has agreed in principle to send a West Indies team to England for a three-Test series in July. The decision was arrived at during a meeting of the board on Thursday.

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 over the past few weeks.

These discussions involved the local and international logistics and protocols, which are already being put in place to minimize risk and optimize the health and safety of all concerned.  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”.

The CWI will now be awaiting the England Cricket Board who is to get approval from the UK Government sometime over the next few days.

CWI’s management is also now in the process of seeking to put all of the approvals and logistics in place within the Caribbean, including seeking permission from the various governments to facilitate the movement of players and support staff, using private charter planes and conducting medical screenings and individual COVID-19 testing for all members of the touring party.

“I would like to thank the CWI management, the Medical Advisory Committee, and the Financial Strategic Advisory Committee for their detailed and timely presentations given to the Board meeting,” said CWI President Ricky Skerritt.

“In addition to our approval in principle of the proposed Test Tour of England, we made some significant financial management decisions that will be announced and implemented in due course.  The great detail to which the Board engaged in these matters is testimony to their urgency and importance, but it meant that we had to defer a few agenda items until next Wednesday (June 3), when we have scheduled to reconvene”.

Most of Thursday’s lengthy meeting focused on discussing the initial short-term recommendations from the Financial Strategy Advisory Committee (FSAC), a special purpose committee that was put in place by CWI President Ricky Skerritt on April 2, 2020.

The committee comprised a joint membership of Directors and Executive Management, all with significant financial management expertise, chaired by JCA President, Wilford “Billy” Heaven.

The Board agreed to the committee’s business continuity plan of action, for how CWI would have to operate in order to survive its cash flow crisis, in the context of the debilitating economic uncertainties of the global pandemic COVID-19.

 

A decision on whether the West Indies will go ahead with their three-Test tour of England could be made by Thursday this week, CWI CEO Johnny Grave has said.

The West Indies tour of England this summer is becoming increasingly likely following positive discussions between the medical team and staff of the English Cricket Board and the CWI on Monday.

Both boards have been in discussions since the start of the month intent on charting a pathway to the West Indies travelling to England for three Tests in July.

Initially scheduled for June, the tour was been postponed because of fears over player safety caused by the spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19.

However, late last week, CWI notified 30 players that they should be prepared to travel and play in England in July if it is decided that the tour would go ahead. It was also revealed that further discussions were set to take place on Monday.

CWI CEO Johnny Grave confirmed to Sportsmax.TV Tuesday that those Monday talks went well.

“The ECB is confident that they can deliver a safe plan for bio-secure behind closed doors cricket that will meet the UK Government guidelines and will therefore likely secure their board's approval,” Grave told Sportsmax.TV today.

“We will have further meetings and discussions this week with the ECB as we try and plan for the Test Tour taking place this summer in an environment where the number-one priority is the health and safety of all players and staff."

During an interview on Sportsnation Live on Nationwide Radio in Jamaica on Saturday, Grave reiterated that safety was the primary concern of the CWI.

“We would have to be absolutely certain that our players and support staff would be in a safe environment in order for us to play cricket,” he said while explaining the conditions under which the team would travel and play in the UK.

“What it means at this stage is that we would use charter flights to first collect players in the Caribbean and then to make our way across the Atlantic. We wouldn’t be on aircraft with any other passengers. There would be private charters for our players and team.

“Then once we land in the UK we would undergo a two-week quarantine period, which would be at a cricket facility, so the players would have the opportunity to play and train. They would be the only ones in that secure environment.”

Grave said the hotel staff, ground staff and other personnel would be tested regularly and would have to remain on-site for the duration. “Once they enter that bio-secure environment no one would be allowed to come or go, so they’d be in lockdown within a cricket venue with a hotel on-site,” he said.

According to Grave, the CWI medical and support staff have determined that the Windies would need at least four weeks to get the players into the condition that they need to be to face England in the Test matches.

 

Reports have emerged that Cricket West Indies has contacted 29 regional players telling them to prepare for a possible tour of England this coming July.

England Test captain Joe Root is in support of finding a way to make sure his side can welcome a visit from the West Indies as early as July.

For that to happen, the players would have to go through rigid isolation and testing protocols, as well as austere social distancing measures.

Of course, the proposal will include officials as well as media and the England skipper thinks it can work.

“I’m optimistic about it. It would be a real shame if it doesn’t happen. The public are desperate for some live sport and the guys are missing it,” said Root.
“The players would be sectioned off in one part of the hotel and would be in isolation together. There would be no interaction with the media, the TV crews or even the opposition when off the pitch.

“We would have separate lunchrooms. It would have a different feel to it but it’s probably manageable. Hopefully that is the case.”

According to the proposals, the three Tests would be played at ‘bio-secure’ venues behind closed doors.

Those venues, the proposal points out, are those that have hotels on location, like Manchester, Southampton and Headingly.

Root, while optimistic, is cognizant of the fact that Cricket West Indies (CWI) would have to take the risk.

In response, West Indies Test captain Jason Holder, has said his side would have to be certain of their safety before saying yes to such a proposal.

“This thing has been really, really serious as we all know and has claimed quite a few lives throughout the world and that’s the last thing any of us would really want,” said Holder.

“I think we’ve got to play the safety card first before we can even think about resuming our normal lives.”

In the meantime, CWI Chief Executive, Johnny Grave, has said the England Cricket Board’s proposals were being considered but that first all the moving parts would have to be understood.
England will be desperate to get back the Wisden Trophy they lost to the West Indies last year for the first time in a decade.

The England Cricket Board (ECB) is expected to announce the postponement of the upcoming series against the West Indies, as the body continues to figure out the game’s scheduling in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The series, which consists of three Test matches, was scheduled to begin in London on June 4, followed by matches at Edgbaston and Lord's starting on 12 and 25 June respectively.  As the world battles to contain the pandemic, playing the series in the heavily hit England looked increasingly unlikely.

Initially, it had been suggested that the West Indies would be willing to step in and host the series, but Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave was quick to paint the suggestion as a highly unlikely scenario.

With all professional halted until May 28, the ECB has had to reckon with the prospect of starting the season later than expected.

The West Indies could have the option of playing the series in two potential windows, either side of their home Test series against South Africa at the end of July.  The series could be squeezed in at the start of that month or in September, which would allow England to play their three-Test series against Pakistan as planned in August.

President of Cricket West Indies, Ricky Skerritt, says despite the economic downturn from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Indies players on retainer will not be asked to take a pay cut just yet.

This, according to Skerritt, doesn’t mean there will be no changes because a technical committee had been vetting retainer contracts in lieu of them coming to an end in a few months.

“There has been no move in that direction at this time. We are actually in the process right now, that is the technical team is in the process of reviewing retainer contracts [because] the retainer contracts come to an end within the next couple of months. So, it is being looked at as normal, but I expect that we will have to do a bit of a check on where we are and what we can afford to do going forward,” he said in an interview with the Good Morning JoJo Sports Show in Antigua.

Skerritt’s comments do not mean that the CWI is in great financial standing despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on sport worldwide, and in fact, the president has pointed to other areas where there might be an impact in short order.

“CWI is facing a rapidly changing world environment for sports and with no sports taking place, with revenues related to broadcast rights and sponsorship and so on, gate receipts, all of those revenues are important, so every sporting organisation around the world is facing issues. Those that were already facing cash flow issues or other organizational issues will just have it tougher and CWI is one of those,” said Skerritt.

English male cricketers have collectively donated £500,000, the women have agreed pay cuts for the next three months to help the English Cricket Board deal with the fallout from a lack of play, while the NBA is proposing a 50 per cent pay cut while games are suspended.

Isolation units and Coronavirus checkpoints at cricket grounds could see the West Indies still making the trip to that country for closed-door games.

The West Indies were scheduled to start a three-Test duel with England at T/he Oval, Edgbaston, and Lord’s on June 4 until the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Europe threatened to derail those plans.

The ECB and Cricket West Indies have been trying to come up with solutions to keep what is expected to be a lucrative series alive.

According to reports, the ECB is stepping up plans to resume cricket in June, but with no spectators, but that broadcasting would still go ahead since that was safer and that is where the majority of money to be earned from the series would be in any case.

The approach, ECB Director of Special Projects, Steve Elworthy, explained that any approach involving re-starting cricket in England would mean creating a sterile environment, safe for players and staff.

The United Kingdom’s problems with containing COVID-19 could mean England’s home series against the West Indies could be moved to the Caribbean where the threat has been markedly lower than Europe.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) and the England Cricket Board (ECB) have been trying to find a work-around so as not to delay the start of the three-Test series set to begin on June 4 at the Kia Oval.

COVID-19 cases are expected to peak in the United Kingdom in June, making it almost a certainty that the start of the English domestic season will be delayed.

The Caribbean, if it continues to remain relatively COVID-19 free, could become third-party hosts for other series, reportedly offering to provide the venues for England’s home fixtures against Pakistan in July.

There is also the possibility that the tour of England could be put off until September, after the West Indies host New Zealand in three One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals from July 8 to July 19 and after South Africa visit for two Tests and five T20Is scheduled for July 23-August 16.

A delay could also mean that the Hero Caribbean Premier League could be pushed back all the way until December.

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