A lot of good news continues to flow for sports fans as many sporting events open around the world.
In football, one can see highlights on the television during the last few months of the Belarus Premier division. Yes, even when the rest of the world was on a standstill, football was being played in the European country as if they were residing on a different planet. Thankfully, we received no reports of players contracting COVID-19 but what a bizarre chance they took. In the end, we saw some tremendous goals and decent football.
For many of us, football really started with the reopening of the Bundesliga (German League) on May 16. Although it is certainly not the same without the chanting of the fans and the noisy stadium atmosphere, the quality of the football will certainly make up for that.
On June 11, La Liga (Spanish League) will restart and yet again the players will perform to empty stadia except for the media and officials. But, what a joy it will soon be to see the likes of Messi and company back in action!
For many die-hard Trini football supporters, myself included, arguably the most popular league in the world, the English Premier League (EPL), resumes on June 17 with two games carded and followed by a full round of matches on the weekend of June 20. All eyes will be on Liverpool to see how quickly they can gain the two victories required to seal their 2020 title after a truly agonising 30-year wait. Naturally, if Manchester City suffers two defeats, then the celebrations for Liverpool fans can begin but more on that closer to the resumption of the EPL.
We seem, however, to have better news in cricket and the West Indies tour of England will finally go ahead. That news must be music to the ears of most of our cricketers and fans alike. I am particularly careful to use the word “most” because it must be a serious concern to some of them going to the UK when, at the time of writing, there have been over 279,000 positive cases of the novel coronavirus with over a quite staggering 39,000 deaths. My understanding is that Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, and Keemo Paul have all opted out of the tour which is, of course, their right.
However, it is heartening to note that Cricket West Indies’ main priority is to keep players and staff completely safe. It will definitely be a guide for future tours as already we see some interesting innovations such as a private charter to the UK with only 40 business class seats and social distancing measures implemented on the aircraft; a medical doctor with the touring party; a two-week period of quarantine in a hotel located on the ground and many other arrangements for the first-ever tour behind closed doors that has bio-security as its guiding principle.
Once these arrangements are firmly in place, I see no reason to question the safety of our players. It is hoped that the players themselves stick to all the quarantine guidelines and no fans are allowed near to the hotel. But most importantly, I hope the players/staff don’t decide to go on a walkabout and visit public places because that could undo all the good work that would have been arranged for their own health and safety.
At the moment, it will be a matter of getting the team up to maximum fitness and playing some cricket as there is no substitute for playing out in the middle. With 25 players in addition to net practice, I am sure coach Phil Simmons will arrange a couple of games among themselves so the performances of the players will be important in selecting the first test team. Some of the youngsters will be pushing the more experienced ones for a place and I expect the competition to be fierce.
Assistant coach Roddy Estwick is predicting that we will be a considerable threat to England and are better prepared to return with a positive series result from the tour. Estwick has to be careful with his comments as while some of the players are more experienced than they were three years ago, England playing at home is a different animal. Having beaten them in that extraordinary Test at Leeds during the 2017 tour and then defeating them here in the Caribbean and regaining the Wisden Trophy, England will be biting at the bit, or shall I say will have their willows ready?
At the time of writing, I am unable to confirm the final 25 players but while I believe the bowling will take care of itself, I remain worried about the batting. I am unconvinced about the openers and I believe that without Bravo and Hetmyer, too much pressure will be placed on Shai Hope. I suppose only time will tell that perhaps one day, our blinkered selectors will understand the true class that exists in Nicholas Pooran.
On another note, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) may be played in T&T from August 19 to September 10, and what an opportunity for the country. We have two superb venues in the historic Queen’s Park Oval (Port-of-Spain) and the Brian Lara Academy (San Fernando). I see no reason why the games can’t be played behind closed doors. We can use the upcoming West Indies tour of England as a proper guide to go about keeping all parties safe. Just as we have two international grounds, we have more than two international hotels that can house the teams. Our medical personnel can be notified, doctors can be assigned and buses to transport them can be easily arranged.
I know the Prime Minister may not be a good batsman, but he is a real cricket fan so I am hoping he gives his blessing to this opportunity for the country to host this year’s CPL. T&T can do it and show the rest of the world what we are made of.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.