LONDON — The West Indies upcoming tour of England will begin later, if at all, following the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) announcement of a seven-week delay to the start of the professional season because of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The season was scheduled to get underway on March 24, and West Indies was to be in camp here before playing tour matches against England Lions and Worcestershire on May 22 and 28, respectively. That was to be followed by a three-Test series against England, starting June 4, at Kennington Oval, Edgbaston, and Lord’s.
But in a statement on Friday, the ECB said the season would not begin until at least May 28 and work had started on a possible revised schedule that would prioritise delivering as much international and domestic cricket as possible.
“The ECB has begun modelling a range of options to start the season in June, July, or August — with an immediate focus on options for cricket in June, including the three-Test series against West Indies, the Vitality Blast, and England Women’s schedule against India,” it said.
It was reported last week that Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave had extended an offer to his ECB counterpart, Tom Harrison to host the Test series in the Caribbean, given the concerns about COVID-19.
The spread of the virus to 177 countries, affecting more than 234,073 people, has forced the suspension or cancellation of several sporting events.
As of Thursday last, there were 2,630 COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom and 103 deaths.
The ECB said it would continue to closely liaise with the Government to discuss the potential of starting the season behind closed doors and giving sports fans the opportunity to view live broadcast action.
“The potential for reduced versions of competitions, should the season become further truncated, will also be discussed. The board will meet as needed to review the position and make further decisions as the UK situation unfolds,” it added.
Harrison said the ECB’s first priority was to protect the well-being of everyone within the cricket family — from players, to fans, and colleagues across the game.
“The decision to delay the start of the season has been essential, given the circumstances the nation faces. I am reassured by the collaborative effort from across the game that together, we will make the very best of whatever length of season we are able to safely schedule in the coming months,” the ECB CEO said.
“With the information available to us at the moment, a delay to the start of the professional cricket season until May 28 was unavoidable. This also allows us time to keep pace with a fast-moving situation and continue to plan for how a revised season might look. Critically, we can also remain as flexible and adaptable as possible, within the obvious restrictions we face.”
Harrison added that securing the future of the game will be a primary focus as the ECB plots a revised schedule with an emphasis on the most financially important forms of the game for the counties across international and domestic cricket. poned