(CMC) — Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief executive Johnny Grave says he is “increasingly confident” the Test tour of England will come off, noting that a final decision will likely be made at Thursday’s meeting of CWI’s board.
In the clearest hint yet the three-Test series will go ahead in July amidst the serious challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Grave said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) now believed they had a “robust and safe plan” to ensure the series came off successfully.
“From where we sit at the moment, based on the information we have, based on the fact that every day there are less and less cases in the UK everyone is getting increasingly confident that the tour will happen at some point,” said Grave.
“Our board meeting is on May 28. If the tour has to take place, by the start of June we would need to have the [CWI] board approval and support by then in order to get the charter flight logistics in place and select the players.”
“We are in the final stages of discussions with the ECB and they are in the final stages of finalising their plans in order to get the UK government and ECB board support.
“We are expecting to get a formal offer to tour England probably by the end of the month so that we can get our board’s approval and the players can potentially leave the region [the Caribbean] in early June.”
Under the current proposal, West Indies would leave the region by private charter on June 8 and undergo two weeks of quarantine at a secure facility while preparing for the series.
The first Test is scheduled to start July 8, the second eight days later, with the final Test bowling off July 24, with the likely venues to be Southampton and Manchester.
“They would have been tested prior to departure, they are then on private charters within the Caribbean, then a private charter to the UK, and then they enter a biosecure bubble where other than them and the people looking after them – groundstaff, catering and hotel staff – no-one else is allowed,” Grave explained.
“Everyone else in that secure bubble has been tested. So the likelihood of coming into contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive is very, very low.
“And it is on that basis, and because of the robustness of the biosecure environment and the plans that our medical people are saying to us it is a safe environment. So the chances of someone catching COVID-19 are very, very small.”
He continued: “The players would be in a very, very secure [and] very, very isolated environment for the first two weeks in quarantine, and then when they move into the biosecure Test venues everyone that they come into contact [with] would be in a restricted bubble, therefore not able to leave, and all of them would have been tested prior to coming into that environment and would continue to undergo random testing whilst they are there.”
The tour was initially scheduled for May but had to be postponed following the outbreak of the pandemic which has caused 260,000 infections and nearly 37,000 deaths across the United Kingdom.
However, the ECB has been anxious to have the tour come off in order to jumpstart their summer programme, and have been in discussions with CWI in recent weeks over having the series played under radical social distancing protocols.
Grave said hopes the series could be played had increased considerably as the ECB’s plans had become more crystallised.
“The ECB have got 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,” the Englishman said.
“Our players and support staff who we have met with [via conference calls] are beginning to understand what a seven-week tour behind closed doors might look like. And the operations team are getting the logistics together for flying everyone from across the Caribbean to probably Antigua to then depart to the UK on a private team charter.
“So yes, good progress is being made and we are getting closer to that final plan for our board to effectively sign off on the tour and ask the selectors to choose the squad and the players to confirm their participation.”