West Indies embark for historic England tour after passing Covid tests

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The West Indies squad led by Jason Holder is all set to embark on a historic Test tour of England, after all the players and support staff cleared the mandatory testing for Covid-19.

The squad will leave Antigua on Monday evening local time on a charter flight and touch down in Manchester on Tuesday morning. The players will then enter a bio-secure environment at Emirates Old Trafford and train for the next three weeks, before heading to Southampton on July 3 for the first Test which begins on July 8.

Last week West Indies announced a 25-man squad, including 11 reserves, for the three-Test series which will the first time cricket has been played in a bio-secure environment.

The tour had been awaiting final approval from the UK government, as well as the national governments in the Caribbean, all of which was granted over the weekend.

A further condition had stipulated that any player/support staff member testing positive for Covid-19 would not be permitted to take the flight.

“All the players’ and staff test results are confirmed as negative,” Johnny Grave, the Cricket West Indies chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo.

Once the CWI had secured confirmation from the selected players about their willingness to tour, the tests were carried out and processed at a laboratory in Miami.

The 25 players will be accompanied by an 11-strong contingent of support staff including assistant coach Roddy Estwick, plus Rayon Griffiths and Floyd Reifer, who is filling in as assistant coach (batting). The medical team comprises Dr. Praimanand Singh (team doctor), Donald LaGuerre (mental coach), along with two physios and two massage therapists.

Phil Simmons, the head coach who is based in London, will join the squad in Manchester on Tuesday.

As per the travel directive of the UK government, West Indies’ squad will need to self-isolate for two weeks, but they will be allowed to train during this period as they are staying at the on-site hotel at Old Trafford.

According to Grave, West Indies will start training from Wednesday and will play one three-day and one four-day matches, each of which will be an intra-squad event.

The logistics of West Indies’ departure involve two charter flights, fetching players from different countries within the Caribbean and bringing them to Antigua. As per the protocol finalised between the CWI and ECB, the squad along with Simmons will be tested again at Old Trafford.

“As soon as they get to Old Trafford they will go to a holding room in the stadium where they will be able to have breakfast and at the same time go in batches to get tested again. And then we should get those test results by Thursday,” Grave said.

Grave, who has been at the forefront of the negotiations with the ECB, said the tour would only be considered to be underway once the squad’s test results in England come back as negative.

“We will be training from Thursday once we get the UK test results back,” he said. “We’ve got to prepare as we’ve got to defend the Wisden Trophy. We are not going there to fulfil the ECB’s broadcast requirements, we are going there to win.” (ESPNCricinfo)