England’s three-Test series against West Indies on a knife edge despite Government giving the green light to competitive sport
- The ECB will face a race against the clock to stage England’s bio-secure matches
- They require stage four clearance to host international cricket here this summer
- The governing body will lose £380m without home England matches in 2020
The ECB face a race against the clock to stage England’s bio-secure matches versus West Indies, despite their opponents agreeing in principle to tour and the Government announcing competitive sport can resume from Monday.
Although the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport provided the green light for a behind-closed-doors return to action on Sunday, that stage three guidance relates to domestic sport and the ECB require stage four clearance to host international cricket here this summer.
Chief executive Tom Harrison says the governing body will lose £380million without home England matches in 2020.
Government dispensation would be required to allow West Indies to prepare for the Test series
Their hopes were given a shot in the arm late on Friday night when Cricket West Indies provided official approval to the tour, after their medical team and cricket-related representatives reported satisfaction with the protocols in place ‘to minimise risk and optimise the health and safety of all concerned’.
However, final pieces are still required in the jigsaw.
In addition to a stage four thumbs-up, Government dispensation would be required to allow West Indies to prepare for the three-Test series, scheduled to start in Southampton on July 8, as self-isolation rules for foreigners arriving in the UK would prevent players staying in the same hotel.
The current regulations only make exceptions for key workers, meaning modifications to the 14-day quarantine rule would be required for the tour to proceed as planned. A 25-man West Indies squad, plus around a dozen support staff, are due to arrive on a chartered flight at the ECB’s expense — anticipated to cost £500,000 — on June 9.
The final two matches of the three-match series are set to be held at Old Trafford next month
To maintain the guidelines for a safe return to practice, promoted by the ICC, they would need to mix together freely and train intensively as a unit almost immediately in readiness for a prompt Ageas Bowl start.
So a positive intervention from Westminster would be required within days for the schedule to stay on course. Time frames are tight throughout the ECB’s plans, with a Pakistan tour, featuring 18 days of play out of 28, pencilled in from August 5.
The West Iindies series, the final two matches of which are set to be held at Emirates Old Trafford, could also be the first to feature Covid-19 substitutes, as long as the ICC approve an ECB request for any player displaying symptoms of coronavirus to be isolated and replaced, in the same manner as a concussed player.
West Indies are facing their own financial black hole and their governing body announced a 50 per cent wage cut for players and staff for up to six months. The reduction will take effect from July 1.
Cricket West Indies said it faces ‘debilitating economic challenges’ and added: ‘CWI’s board of directors, with deep regret, have agreed to a plan that we expect will safeguard CWI’s future.’
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