Player safety guaranteed for England series - Grave
Cricket West Indies has outlined some of the strict protocols that will govern the proposed tour of England, stressing that it would not have backed plans for the three-Test series unless it was totally convinced that the novel measures could keep players and staff completely safe.
Speaking last weekend, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave said that both the regional governing body and the host England and Wales Cricket Board had gone to extreme lengths to develop and implement critical social-distancing and sanitisation protocols for the seven-week tour to mitigate against the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pointing to an increased touring party, a private charter to the United Kingdom, guaranteed "bio-secure" facilities, and the addition of a medical doctor to the touring party, Grave reiterated that the health and safety of players was the utmost priority and would not be compromised at any stage.
"The plan at the moment is to depart from Antigua where most of the LIAT aircraft are based at the moment. So we have one charter that will come across from Kingston [with the Jamaican players] to Antigua, and one aircraft will fly from here in Antigua down to Guyana and then work its way back up [with players from the southern Caribbean]," Grave told i95FM Sports here, adding that all 25 players and members of management would be tested for COVID-19 in the Caribbean before flying out.
"All of the players will immediately get on a transatlantic charter to the UK. It's a private charter, the aircraft being completely remodelled with only 40 business-class seats, with social distancing between each seat.
"It's a big plane but only 40 seats,, so there will be plenty of room and very safe, and it will only be the players and team management that are accompanying them on that flight."
He added: "Because we've got 25 players - and obviously, we don't want anything to happen medically - we're travelling with an extra physiotherapist and extra massage therapist.
"There are two reasons to have an extra massage therapist and physio because they're absolutely key, especially for our fast bowlers in what will be three back-to-back Test matches.
"We're also travelling with a doctor from the Caribbean as well. So we'll have a doctor/physician assigned to the team full time, dedicated to us. He will travel with the team and be with them all the time."
Grave said that the other reason for including the extra physio and therapist was simply to provide backup personnel.
On arrival in the UK, the touring party will be transported in three to four separate coaches to Old Trafford in Manchester, where they will then undergo quarantine in a hotel located at the storied cricket ground.
During that time, players will kick off their final preparations for the first Test, which is scheduled for the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. The last two Tests have been carded for Old Trafford, subject to final approval.
"They will be the only team that's there [at Old Trafford]. It will be completely private - private use for the West Indies team for three weeks," the Englishman explained.
"We're flying over with as many as 25 players so we'll be able to play practice matches and train, during which will be a two-week official quarantine, followed by another week of training before we head down to what we think will be the venue for first the Test at Southampton."
The tour had been scheduled for last month but became a casualty of the ongoing pandemic, which has already forced the cessation of all cricket globally.
If it comes off, the series will the first set of international cricket played in nearly three months and the first-ever "bio-secure" tour behind closed doors.
For its part, the UK has been particularly hard hit by the virus, with 276,000 recorded infections and just over 39,000 deaths.