BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Cricket West Indies says the COVID-19 pandemic has created a chaotic situation with airlift, which has forced the regional board to resort to cumbersome routes to get players from their respective territories.
Cricket operations manager, Roland Holder, said that with some borders in the Caribbean still closed and limited flights available, the task of transporting players and officials had become even more difficult and in some cases, more expensive.
“From where we sit, we’ve had to fly persons through the US to get them into various [Caribbean] countries, whether it’s Antigua, whether it’s St Lucia,” Holder said.
“We’ve had to fly people through the US. There are almost no flights coming out of Trinidad so you can’t put somebody on an airplane on a daily basis and say ‘hey, you need to get to point A or B.’ So yes, there are challenges.
“It’s more expensive, it’s more time consuming. Your journey in some instances will take even longer.”
Border closures have become more widespread, not only in the Caribbean but globally, as respective governments have used the measure as part of their overall COVID-19 regulations to combat the spread of the virus.
As a result, CWI has faced a logistical nightmare, and have resorted mainly to the use of charters to move players to tournaments and series.
The major fallout last year at the height of the pandemic was the scrapping of the entire international home schedule, resulting in massive financial losses for CWI.
However, the regional governing body managed to stage the Super50 last February and also host Sri Lanka for a full series, with both events hosted in Antigua.
West Indies are now poised to welcome South Africa, Australia and Pakistan over the next three months and Holder said it was critical CWI executed the upcoming tours successfully amid the ongoing pandemic challenges.
“Last year we had no international cricket in the Caribbean so we have one (Sri Lanka) under our belt now,” the former West Indies batsman and Barbados captain told Starcom Radio’s Mason and Guest.
“We’re hoping to get these three tours underway which of course would generate some income for us and unfortunately, you may just have to spend some of that income on charter flights and COVID testing etc but it’s the organisation we are. We are a cricket organisation so we need to be putting on cricket.”
South Africa arrive on June 1 for two Tests in St Lucia from June 10-24, before heading to Grenada for five Twenty20 Internationals from June 26 to July 3.
Australia then follow for a five-match T20I series in St Lucia from July 9-16 before heading to Barbados for three One-Day Internationals from July 20-24.
And Pakistan round off the home schedule when they take on the hosts in another five-match T20I series from July 27 to August 3 in Barbados and Guyana, before playing two Tests in Jamaica from August 12-24.
Holder said even the international teams coming into the Caribbean had faced difficult logistical challenges.
“South Africa can only get as far as St Martin so we have to move them from St Martin into St Lucia,” he explained.
“Australia don’t wish to go through the various airports and run the risk of being infected, so they are chartering a flight from Down Under.
“Pakistan are coming from the UK so they’re somewhat easier. There’s a flight from Manchester that will get them to their first port of entry.”