Cricket in COVID-19 times: How West Indies coped with first-ever international series in biosecure bubble
Before international cricket resumed, a 25-strong West Indies cricket team squad, including 11 reserves, had to spend three weeks in quarantine in the UK.
New Zealand were on a tour of Australia in March 2020 and were expected to play a three-match ODI series. The first match was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which was won by Australia. As the two teams geared up for the second game, international borders began to be sealed and the rest of the series had to be abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The South Africa tour of India met a similar fate.
After almost four months of no live international cricket action, the sport returned with the three-match test series between England and West Indies, which kicked off on July 8. While the series turned out to be a big success, the amount of work that had to be done by the backroom staff is staggering.
The management at the England Cricket Board and Cricket West Indies deserve credit, but a lot of it has to go to the West Indian players who agreed to be a part of the squad that had to quarantine for three weeks upon their arrival in the UK. During this time, they were allowed to train in the biosecure bubble.
While the first test match of the series was played at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, the West Indies squad initially camped at the Old Trafford in Manchester due to the attached hotel facility at the stadium.
No one except the West Indies contingent and the hospitality staff was allowed inside the bubble. One-way systems were in place inside the venue to maintain distancing. All the players and the support staff in the bubble had to go through COVID-19 testing twice a week and the players were not allowed out of the Old Trafford premises.
In an interview during the quarantine, West Indies pacer Oshane Thomas revealed that a lot of free time of the players was spent in the games room playing dominoes. Feels like a trip back to school days, doesn’t it?
West Indies did well to keep their morale high and came out victorious in the first test match of the series, to the surprise of many. However, the isolation began to take its toll and the team lost the last two games to concede the series. That is not to say that skill did not play a part in that.
As the tour ended, West Indies skipper Jason Holder conceded that it had been “mentally challenging” for the boys and some of the guys were actually a bit worn out due to the lack of “real life”.
While it is obvious that staying in isolation for weeks at a stretch is mentally challenging, one can only appreciate the commitment of the West Indies players to bring international cricket back on track.