Nagraj Gollapudi in ESPNcricinfo, 3 June 2020 … with this title “Why West Indies trio pulled out of England tour”
Concerns about their families are understood to be the primary reason behind Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul declining to be part of the West Indies Test squad for the England tour. Both the prospect of leaving their families for seven weeks and concerns about how quickly they would be able to see them on their return to the Caribbean at the end of July are understood to be key factors in the players’ decisions, with uncertainty around the quarantine requirements that may be imposed by their respective governments.
On Wednesday, Cricket West Indies (CWI) announced a 25-man squadincluding 11 reserves for the three-Test series in England which is scheduled to start in Southampton on July 8 subject to the UK government’s approval. CWI said it “fully accepts and respects” the decision taken by Bravo, Hetmyer and Paul to opt out of the tour and would “certainly not hold it against” them in future selections.
Talking to ESPNcricinfo, Johnny Grave, CWI chief executive, said that the board wanted players who were “comfortable” travelling without any “nagging doubts” as otherwise it might impact their performances. Grave said he totally understood the doubts and fears expressed by the three players after speaking with Bravo last Friday and receiving emails from the other two players over the weekend.
Grave said Paul, the 22-year-old allrounder, wrote an email to CWI explaining how difficult a decision it was for him to not travel to England. “Keemo Paul is the sole breadwinner in his entire household and wider family,” Grave said. “He was really concerned if something happened to him how his family would cope.
“He wrote a personal note to us to explain it was with a heavy heart that he had decided not to tour but that he just didn’t feel comfortable going to England. He wrote passionately about how hard a decision it was for him and how much he loves playing for West Indies, but with consultation with his family he doesn’t feel he can leave them and doesn’t want to go on the tour.”
According Grave, Hetmyer said that he “didn’t feel comfortable from a safety point of view, leaving his home, leaving his family and heading over to England”. Paul and Hetmyer both come from Guyana, where the number of Covid-19 cases is under 200.
As for Bravo, who lives in Trinidad, Grave said he was concerned about the situation in the UK. “Darren Bravo had concerns about his health and any consequences that it may have on his young family. He also mentioned he made his decision with great remorse as it was always a huge honour for him to play for West Indies. So, yes, perfectly valid reasons and the ones that we fully respect. We were never going to force or try to coerce and we didn’t ask them to reconsider.”
Bravo, Hetmyer and Paul are centrally-contracted, all-format players. Among the three, only Hetmyer has consistently featured in the Test team since his debut in 2017, but all three have struggled with form in the last year. Last year, Bravo managed just 106 runs at an average of 13.25 which included the two-Test series against India. The selectors dropped him for the one-off Test against Afghanistan with chief selector Roger Harper saying Bravo needed to be “away” from international cricket to find his form back. Hetmyer, too, had a forgettable 2019 in Test cricket, scoring 244 runs at 24.40, while Paul has played three Tests in his career with six wickets to his name.
In May, Grave had pointed out that he understood why players who come from smaller Caribbean islands would be nervous about going to England, which was seen as “one of the eyes of the storm” with the official death count due to the virus nearing 40,000. Subsequently, the players grew more confident once they heard of the “robust and safe plan” the ECB had put in place to conduct the tour within a bio-secure environment behind closed doors.
On June 1, both ECB and CWI medical experts had another call before the tour schedule was made public. On the same day, CWI had a call with the wider pool of players from which the final squad would be picked to update them on the final arrangements. “We gave them all the most up-to-date information on the tour,” Grave said. “All I clarified to them on Monday on the call with Professor Nick Pierce (ECB chief medical officer) and our medical practitioners was: were they happy that they had all the information and did they have any further questions.
“I then explained that Roger Harper, CWI lead selector, would contact them regarding whether they were selected or not and that they had until the following day, having slept on it, to confirm their position.
“Ultimately, we want a group of players that are comfortable to be there so that they are not worried about these things and therefore they have got a chance to perform at their best. If they have got nagging doubts or worries about their families they are not going to be performing at their best.
“It is in everyone’s interest if you are not comfortable to say so and not tour and be certain that it is not going to be held against you. Rather than go, be worried, and ultimately don’t perform or want to come home. So it is a good decision all round. We are still taking a strong Test side to England.”
CWI is now waiting for the test results for the squad to come back from Miami, which are expected within the next 48 hours. Anyone who tests positive for the virus will almost certainly not take the charter flight that is set to leave on June 8 from Antigua.
Sweat not as effective as saliva, Sri Lanka bowlers tell coach Mickey Arthur
The feedback from Sri Lanka’s bowlers on the first day of post-lockdown nets sessions, is that sweat is not quite as effective for ball management as saliva.
This is what the bowlers reported to coach Mickey Arthur, who is part of the ICC cricket committee that made recommendations last week to use only sweatwhile the Covid-19 pandemic ran its course. The recommendations were aimed to minimise infection.
Six members of the 13-man squad that began the 12-day “residential training camp”, are fast bowlers.
“It was interesting chatting to the bowlers, who said sweat made the ball a little bit heavier than saliva did,” Arthur told ESPNcricinfo. “Saliva was their preferred mechanism of shining the ball. But it is what it is now, you’ve just got to get on with it.
“Because I’m on the [ICC] cricket committee, I do know the debates and the chats that went around the recommendation to avoid using saliva on the ball – though you can use sweat on the ball because it’s been proven that sweat is not a real threat. The consensus in that committee meeting was: ‘Oh, well, if you can put sweat on, then it’s ok. It’s almost the same.'”
Although there is a broad consensus that for the time being the use of saliva on the ball should be avoided, there have been calls from leading voices in the game to allow the use of an artificial substance in place of saliva, in order to ensure that fast bowlers’ threat does not diminish substantially past the first few overs of the innings. Jasprit Bumrah, for example, said that if saliva is banned there should be “some alternative for the bowlers to maintain the ball”.
The ICC cricket committee resisted calls to greenlight outside substances, however, not least because the committee had strengthened punishments for ball tampering, in the wake of 2018’s tampering sagas – particularly Australia’s use of sandpaper in Cape Town.
“I will take this feedback back to the cricket committee, but I also know what the whole debate was around that issue,” Arthur said. “At the meeting last year, we actually recommended harsher penatlies for mints or any illegal substance on the ball, and it’s amazing that a year later we are discussing whether they can use artificial substances. It was almost a contradiction.
“The theme of the meeting when that discussion came up was around the fact that even if it made it a batters’ game for a bit, we just had to get cricket on. The focus was getting cricket on without making it too complex. If we allowed them to put an artificial substance on, for example, and Covid goes away in 18 months’ time or whenever, do we say: ‘you can’t use an artificial substance on the ball’ again? We would have just confused everything. There are other ways of evening up the contest for the bowlers as well – by leaving extra grass on the pitch etc.”
In addition to avoiding saliva on the ball, Sri Lanka’s training squad is also adjusting to a highly unusual training and living environment, in order to prevent infection. The 13 players and four support staff are essentially in their own bubble, going from hotel to ground and vice versa, in central Colombo. No one is allowed to leave either venue for personal reasons.
“Every morning we’re having temperatures taken every time you leave the room,” Arthur said. “We’re wearing masks all the time. It’s almost total isolation, because in the hotel we’ve got our own eating area, the gym is cleared during our gym sessions and they clear the pool for our recovery sessions. There’s no interaction with anyone else apart from the little bubble that we’re in. We were washing hands regularly as well. It is so different, but everybody’s sort of embraced it, as we have to. Dr Daminda Attanayake – our health advisor – she’s been absolutely outstanding.”
The training session on Tuesday had been interrupted when captain Dimuth Karunaratne suffered a heatstroke, requiring medical attention. He is expected to be back training on Wednesday, however, according to Arthur.
“They are doing a few more precautionary tests on Dimuth, but soon as those are done he’ll be up and ready to go. He’s a determined bloke.”