BRIDGETOWN: West Indies’ Test cricketers, including captain Jason Holder, returned to training in small groups at the Kensington Oval in preparation for their potential series against England in July, the country’s cricket board said on Monday.

The West Indies had been scheduled to visit England for three Tests in June but the tour was pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is now looking at hosting the series in July.

“Based on the information we have at the moment, everyone is getting increasingly confident that the tour will happen at some point this summer,” Johnny Grave, chief executive officer of Cricket West Indies, said in a statement. “... We are in the final stages of discussions with the ECB and we expect to hear from them shortly once their bio-secure plans have government and board support.”

Opener Kraigg Brathwaite, wicket-keeper Shai Hope and fast bowler Kemar Roach also returned to training under the watchful eyes of West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick and other coaches from the Barbados Cricket Association.

Meanwhile, Grave said a plan is in place to fly a 25-man squad to England around June 8 ahead of the Test series starting a month later in bio-secure stadiums with no spectators.

Grave says he has been in discussions with the ECB for the past six weeks and that Cricket West Indies is expecting a formal offer to go ahead with the tour in the coming days.

Grave said the players would take privately sourced tests for Covid-19 three or four days before the departure date. They would then convene at a base in Antigua and fly out in one aircraft on the same day, before being transported to their quarantine and training venue where they would spend about three weeks.

He adds that the current plan is for the Test matches to start July 8, July 16 and July 24. The tour was due to start on June 4 but no professional cricket can be played in England before July 1 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Grave said there is still some apprehension among players and support staff about leaving their families for seven weeks, travelling to Britain and playing in bio-secure venues, but that no player has said formally he does not want to tour.

England cricketers returned to individual skill-based training last week.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2020