West Indies ‘flexible’ over England tour as ECB consider overseas offers
Cricket West Indies have said they’re ‘flexible’ about rearranging their tour of England but won’t risk their players’ health just to finish a three-Test series.
The fixtures were all due to take place in June but Friday saw the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) extend the delay to the start of its season until July 1 .English officials remain hopeful they will reschedule all international fixtures during a programme that also includes three more Tests against Pakistan and white-ball matches against Australia and Ireland, from July until September.
The West Indies had been scheduled to play the Test matches at The Oval (June 4-8), Edgbaston (June 12-16) and Lord’s (June 25-29).
CWI chief executive Johnny Grave insisted while the West Indies were hospitable a change of dates, player safety remained the priority. “Clearly playing in June is not possible and that we will continue our discussions with the ECB and other international boards on trying to seek out new dates,” said Grave in a statement from the governing body.
“Our respective medical teams are beginning to discuss how this [England] series could be played whilst guaranteeing the health and safety of our players and support team. We will be as flexible as we can without compromising the safety of our team,” Grave, himself an Englishman, added.
Even if the 2 boards find mutually acceptable dates, Britain’s lockdown restrictions would need to ease for the series to require place in England and even rules banning mass gatherings would likely still be effective , meaning matches would need to happen behind closed doors.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said on Friday the board had received ‘multiple offers’ from other countries to assist them complete the domestic season.
His comments came after Surrey chairman Richard Thompson earlier said Abu Dhabi had offered to host matches for the ECB. “We’ve had offers as distant as Australia and New Zealand,” said Harrison. “Those offers are on the table. I haven’t had anything from Abu Dhabi , but that’s to not say the offer hasn’t been made.”
But Harrison, while still aiming for England to stage a full home 2020 international season, warned: “We’re probably going to the purpose now where any longer delays beyond where we’ve already started planning for will involve losing cricket instead of rescheduling again.”
Harrison said albeit Britain’s lockdown eased to permit cricket, games would likely be played behind closed doors, an idea he said the ECB were ‘starting to urge comfortable with’.
“Clearly there’ll got to be a big testing regime in situ ,” he said. “Right now, testing elite athletes or testing people in respect of sport just can’t be a priority within the context of the national health crisis and therefore the issues frontline workers and vulnerable people are facing.
“At the proper time this becomes a relevant discussion and government tells us when that’s the proper time. It’s not yet, clearly. The ECB have made it clear that their priority is to preserve lucrative Tests and limited-overs internationals. There have been suggestions those fixtures might be moved to potentially ‘bio-secure’ venues such as Old Trafford and Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl, which have on-site hotels that allow for easier monitoring of players and officials.
“I’m not sure if ‘quarantined’ is the right word but there will need to be areas of the ground where only certain people are allowed to go at certain points,” said Harrison.
But health and travel restrictions imposed by foreign governments could prove an enormous obstacle , with Harrison saying getting international sides into the country was one among cricket’s biggest challenges.
Harrison has previously warned a season without any cricket at all could cost the game in England and Wales more than 300 million pounds ($370 million), echoing dire warnings from other regions. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19 there had long been a debate about whether the domestic game could support 18 first-class counties, with several club’s hooked in to ECB grants funded by broadcast deals.
Harrison said the board wanted to try to to all they might to “keep the networks with the lights on”, given the counties are run independently of the board. The ECB chief, as he had done when announcing the ECB’s 61 million aid package last month, again said English cricket’s cost base was ‘too high’. But he added: “Don’t draw the conclusion that not everyone can survive, because that’s not the proper conclusion to draw from that statement.”