Windies clear second COVID tests ahead of New Zealand series

Jason Holder

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand  — All members of the West Indies touring party have returned second negative COVID-19 tests, bringing them one step closer to full integration with the community here.

The group arrived from the Caribbean a week ago and have been undergoing a 14-day quarantine at the High Performance at Lincoln University, just outside the city located on South Island’s east coast.

Following Thursday’s second COVID-19 test, the contingent is now set for one final test before the end of quarantine. Once these are negative, members of the touring party will be allowed to move around freely.

This is in contrast to the England series last July when the West Indies touring party remained in a bio-secure bubble throughout the tour, away from the general public.

New Zealand has been at the forefront globally in handling pandemic, recording only 1 618 confirmed cases — only 43 of which are still active — and 25 deaths.

After the third day of quarantine here, West Indies were allowed to undergo training on a limited basis and in small groups and from Sunday [today], will be able to increase the size of those groups in training sessions.

However, head coach Phil Simmons said while the relaxation in restrictions would be welcomed, he did not believe there was any advantage to be gained in view of the upcoming series.

“We had enough freedom to practice and everything in England. Here, after the 14 days [of quarantine] things will be normal as we would have known it before COVID but it doesn’t change how we train, it doesn’t change how we practice,” Simmons told reporters in an online media gathering.

“I don’t think it gives us an edge. New Zealand domestic cricket is being played right now so only the guys at IPL are missing but their domestic cricket is playing right now.”

West Indies are still awaiting the arrival of seven players who are currently involved in the ongoing Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates.

Test captain Jason Holder, white ball captain Kieron Pollard, along with batsmen Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, all-rounders Fabian Allen and Keemo Paul and fast bowler Oshane Thomas, are expected to join the squad at the conclusion of the IPL on November 11.

However, due to the 14-day quarantine, they are not expected to be available until the eve of the opening Twenty20 International in Auckland on November 27.

West Indies will face the Black Caps in the second and third T20 Internationals on November 29-30 in Mount Maunganui before the opening Test starts in Hamilton on December 3.

The final Test is scheduled for Wellington from December 11-15.

For West Indies, the tour is the second of the year since the COVID-19 outbreak. They went down 2-1 in the three-Test series in England which marked the resumption of cricket following the international lockdown