CWI has approved West Indies’ scheduled tour of England in principle following a meeting via teleconference on Thursday. The Test series, part of the World Test Championship, was originally slated to start on June 4 but was pushed back because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The boards are now looking at an early July start, with the West Indies team arriving in June and isolating prior to the series, which, if it goes ahead, will be played behind closed doors.
The board’s formal approval came days after CWI chief executive Johnny Grave told ESPNcricinfo that he was “increasingly confident” that the tour would take place. A CWI statement said the decision was made after detailed discussions between its medical representatives and those of the ECB, including plans around logistics and creating a bio-secure environment during the tour.
With the UK government on Saturday* releasing stage three guidance for the resumption of elite sport, which permits the return of competition from June 1, the tour now awaits approvals from the various national governments in the Caribbean region for player and staff movement via chartered planes. Players and staff would be screened regularly through the tour as part of comprehensive ECB “bio-security” planning.
The decision follows weeks of discussions between the two boards, including a phase where CWI wasn’t as confident as they have been this past week, given the marked difference in Covid-19 cases between the two regions. But the ECB’s safety plans have changed the CWI’s mind.
“What has changed is 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,” Grave had said during the interview. “Our medical team are getting more confident and comfortable with those plans. Our players and support staff who we have met with [on conference calls] are beginning to understand what a seven-week tour behind closed doors might look like.”
Subject to a negative Covid-19 test result, the squad is expected to be chartered to Antigua from various parts of the Caribbean, following which they will fly together to the UK. Upon getting there, the team will spend three weeks in their quarantine and training facility.
The CWI statement said that the board “is 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 National 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”.
“If someone tests positive at any stage in 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,” Grave said. “Should any player have more serious symptoms, they will be treated in hospital at pre-arranged facilities.”
It is also expected that player replacement during a match, along the lines of a concussion substitute, will be mulled by the ICC cricket committee when it meets in June.
*1900 BST – This story was updated following the UK government announcement