Cricket West Indies says it has no hard feelings towards players who have declined selection for the tour of Bangladesh, saying the global COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in “unprecedented times and unprecedented conditions”, under which to play cricket.
Chief executive officer, Johnny Grave, said CWI had made it clear to players once cricket resumed amid the ongoing pandemic, that the decision to tour would rest with them, with no backlash from the regional board if they opted not to participate in any planned series.
He was speaking against the backdrop of the decision by 10 players, including Test captain Jason Holder and white-ball skipper, Kieron Pollard, to pull out of the January 20 to February 15 tour of Bangladesh.
“We knew it was going to be unprecedented times and difficult for players and we said from the outset we’d accept any player who chose, due to these unprecedented times and unprecedented conditions for these tours, to opt-out,” Grave said in a television interview.
“And in the case for this tour, we’ve had our largest number of players opt-out but it gives me a lot of confidence that we are going with a leadership group of team management support so that Phil Simmons and the best technical coaches will be there to support these teams on what will be a difficult tour.”
Holder and Pollard have been joined by the likes of Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, in missing the tour due to what CWI said were “COVID-19 related concerns or personal fears”.
White ball all-rounder Fabian Allen and Test wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich also declined selection due to “personal reasons”.
The exodus from the tour will be a huge blow to CWI, especially after director Dr Akshai Manasingh – also a member of its medical advisory committee – undertook a review of protocols in Bangladesh on a reconnaissance tour there last month.
Then, Mansingh said the Bangladesh Cricket Board had met all “international standards recommended for COVID-19”, in preparing for the series.
Grave said while CWI and its medical advisors believed the safety of the touring party would not be compromised in any way, the board understood there would be players who “might not be confident enough to go”.
“We’re satisfied that we have gone through a really robust and lengthy process with the Bangladesh Cricket Board to ensure that the players will be safe in Bangladesh,” Grave explained.
“We’ve also spent a lot of time with the players talking through these medical protocols. We knew that Bangladesh would present new challenges, that’s why we took the decision to send not just Dr Mansingh but also our safety, security and compliance manager, Paul Slowe, to try and give everyone the comfort that they would be safe.
“We’ve said from the outset that the players’ health and well-being would be our number one priority and that continues to be the case.”
He added: “With that said, we’re pioneers. No international team has been to Bangladesh since COVID-19 and therefore we have to accept that the best medical practitioners who have kept the players safe to date to allow international cricket … have given this [tour] their blessing, and are confident that the plans the BCB have put in place to ensure player safety are robust.
“But we have to accept these unprecedented times mean that some players, for whatever reasons they have, may not be confident enough to go.”
Grave stressed it was critical that only the players who were confident in the safety and security provided, undertook the tour which comprises three One-Day Internationals and two Tests.
“What we don’t want is players going there not confident they are going to be in a safe environment because we know they won’t perform if they’ve got uncertainties about the conditions they’ll be playing in,” the Englishman said.
“So it’s important that we go with players that feel safe and happy to go because we know that will give us the best opportunity for those players to perform.”