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‘Huge step forward’ after Windies land in England


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‘Huge step forward’ after...

LONDON • West Indies captain Jason Holder said international cricket will take a “huge step forward” following the coronavirus shutdown as his team arrived yesterday for a Test series in England.

Fans who have had to make do with months of television repeats can now look forward to the real thing again, with England captain Joe Root saying of the West Indies’ decision to tour: “It must be extremely scary and I think the whole cricketing world will be grateful to see some cricket again.”

The three-match contest was meant to be played this month but will start on July 8 instead.

“This is a huge step forward in cricket and in sports in general as we travel over to England for this series,” said Holder. “A lot has gone into the preparations for what will be a new phase in the game.”

Rather than matches before crowds at The Oval, Edgbaston and Lord’s, a now back-to-back series will take place behind closed doors at the more “bio-secure” Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the first Test and Old Trafford for the next two. Whereas players usually spend evenings during a Test away from the ground, they will instead find themselves in a protective bubble at the two venues which both have on-site hotels.

Every member of the 39-strong touring party, including 25 players, tested negative for the virus, although they will be retested in Manchester.

“Our main objective is to deliver a safe environment for all stakeholders,” said England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) events director Steve Elworthy.

Yet there is no escaping the financial impact. Going ahead with major matches is seen as vital, with the ECB estimating it could lose £252 million (S$444 million) if there are no fixtures all summer.

One of cricket’s poorest major teams, the West Indies are now helping one of its wealthiest, despite the Caribbean outfit’s cricket board having to impose a 50 per cent pay cut on all players and staff.

The West Indies, who hold the Wisden Trophy after beating England at home last year, will complete a 14-day quarantine period combined with initial training at Old Trafford before heading south for the first Test.

Three West Indies players – Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul – declined to tour, with Cricket West Indies insisting it will not hold this against them when it comes to future selection.

While international cricket is starting to get back on its feet, uncertainty continues to surround this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts has said the tournament’s October-November schedule is under “very high risk” and the International Cricket Council is set to discuss contingency plans today.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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June 10, 2020 5:00 AM

LONDON • West Indies captain Jason Holder said international cricket will take a “huge step forward” following the coronavirus shutdown as his team arrived yesterday for a Test series in England.

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