Earlier this week, the Cricket West Indies (CWI) revealed a 14-member squad that would partake in their upcoming tour to England in July. The return of international cricket after nearly 3-months of pandemic-induced inactivity sure is an exciting prospect for the fans. That said, there’s still a long way to go before the situation returns to ‘normal’. Darren Bravo, Keemo Paul, and Shimron Hetmyer’s decision to pull out of the squad is a valid proof to that point.
West Indies three-match test series against England is going to be a ‘first’ in several regards. The first ‘closed-doors’ international test-series (AUS vs NZ claimed that feat in their ODI match). The first series that’ll be played in an artificially stimulated ‘bio-secure’ environment. Could this be the future roadmap for international-cricket, at least for the next couple of years? If so, then there’s still a lot of groundwork pending to ensure the best available safety and health standards for all the fieldsmen involved.
CWI chief executive Johnny Grave recently spoke up on Hetmyer, Paul, and Bravo’s self-imposed exclusion from the side. According to Grave, all three players had ‘declined the invitation’ to join the squad, and had valid reasons for doing so.
“Approval from the family is really important in such a situation”- Johnny Grave
“Keemo Paul is the sole breadwinner in his entire household and wider family. We empathize with his concerns; if something were to happen to him, his family would have a real hard time. And we would never want a situation like that,” Grave told ESPNCricinfo.
Paul, who has featured in as three-tests, 19 ODIs and 18 T20Is for the Windies, is one of the more experienced players in the current Caribbean setup. His email to the CWI, Grave said, genuinely conveyed the safety concerns he felt towards his family.
“He [Paul] wrote passionately about how hard a decision it was for him. We all know how much he loves playing for West Indies. But in the current situation, family consultation is just as important, and they aren’t comfortable with him touring. We understand those sentiments.” Grave commented.
The 23-year old Hetmyer, yet another prolific Windies campaigner, expressed similar concerns around leaving his family alone as his reason for opting out of the tour. Bravo, too, shares similar concerns; but he further made a point to air his worries about the United Kingdom’s prevailing pandemic situation. At the moment, the United Kingdom ranks 4th on the global scale in terms of the number of actively infected patients, with over 2, 80, 000 infected patients.
“We are not going to force our players to play”
“He [Bravo] also mentioned he made his decision with great remorse as it was always a huge honor for him to play for West Indies. We find each of their reasons perfectly reasonable and fully respect them. We never had plans of forcing our players to play, hence we’re not going to ask them to reconsider. But we do hope that they’re able to come back in the side once the situation improves. Their experience and value to the side cannot be compensated for in anyways,” Grave concluded.
If all goes as per schedule, the 25-member West Indies team will leave for England on June 9 in chartered flights. The tour will start on July 8, with the first test match at the Rose Bowl.