Test captain Jason Holder and white-ball skipper Kieron Pollard are among 10 players who have pulled out of the next month’s tour of Bangladesh over COVID-19 related concerns, in a massive blow to the five-match series.
Cricket West Indies said Tuesday the 10 players had declined selection due to “COVID-19 related concerns or personal fears” ahead of the January 20 to February 15 series in the south Asian country, which up to Tuesday had reported 510 080 confirmed cases of COVID-19 along with 7 479 deaths.
Along with Holder and Pollard, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran have all also opted out of the tour while CWI said left-arm spinner Fabien Allen and Test wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich were “unavailable due to personal reasons”.
Dowrich also abruptly left the tour of New Zealand earlier this month for undisclosed “personal reasons”.
In Holder’s absence, experienced opener Kraigg Brathwaite will now lead the Test side in the two-match series while Trinidadian Jason Mohammed, without a match for West Indies in 2-½ years, takes charge of the ODI unit for the three-match rubber.
Despite the high profile exodus of players for the tour, chief selector Roger Harper told an online media conference Tuesday that he believed conditions remained safe for players.
“The CWI medical team, they’re the experts in this field and that area and have given the all-clear for the tour,” Harper reiterated.
“And CWI sent a [reconnaissance] team out there which included Dr [Akshai] Mansingh and security officer Paul Slowe to sort of review things and see what the risk would be and make recommendations to ensure the safety of the players.
“From that perspective, CWI has every confidence that everything is being done to ensure the safety and well-being of the players.”
He added: “If we look at things from the other perspective, there are a lot of people who are looking for an opportunity to work and continue to do so, and I still think cricket is providing that opportunity for several people.”
Following the assessment tour of Bangladesh last month, Mansingh – a member of the CWI and International Cricket Council medical advisory committees – gave a full-throated endorsement of the protocols implemented by the Bangladesh Cricket Board saying they were “very, very well thought out” and complied with “all international standards recommended for COVID-19”.
On his recommendation, CWI announced earlier this month it had agreed to the tour – the third for West Indies men amid the global pandemic.
While it is not the first time players have declined selection because of COVID-19 fears, the numbers have not been as large and have not included the captains.
On last July’s tour of England – the first amid the pandemic – batsmen Bravo, Hetmyer and all-rounder Keemo Paul, opted not to play even though the bulk of the squad travelled.
The mass withdrawals have forced selectors to turn to the uncapped likes of left-arm spinning all-rounder Kavem Hodge, batting all-rounder Kyle Mayers and left-handed opener Shayne Moseley in the 15-man Test squad, which now boasts only four players with significant Test experience.
In the 15-man ODI squad, selectors have included several uncapped players in left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein, batsmen Kjorn Ottley, Andre McCarthy, Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Jahmar Hamilton and Mayers, along with fast bowler Chemar Holder.
While none have yet played the shorter format, Da Silva and Holder made their Test debuts on the recent tour of New Zealand, Mayers made his maiden T20 International appearance on the same tour while Hamilton played his lone Test last year and McCarthy a single T20 International nearly three years ago.
The squad is due to arrive in Bangladesh on January 10.
TEST – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, John Campbell, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Kavem Hodge, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Shayne Moseley, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Raymon Reifer, Jomel Warrican
ODI -Jason Mohammed (captain), Sunil Ambris (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Jahmar Hamilton, Chemar Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Andre McCarthy, Kjorn Ottley, Rovman Powell, Raymon Reifer, Romario Shepherd, Hayden Walsh jr.